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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Research in contemporary social movements: a case study of Guatemala 2015
Authored by Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Tenth semester, Aalborg University, July 2016
Master’s thesis for the Communication, Culture, and Global Studies (CCG)
Supervised by: Martin Bak Jørgensen
Thesis | 1
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Throughout the working period I have received much help and support for which I am sincerely
grateful. I will dedicate a few words to those people who have been a great part of realizing this
To my wife, Mariana Putzeys Herrarte, for her patience, support, encouragements, and help with
translations. To my in-laws who have always been hospitable and kind to let me stay over for extended
periods of time when I visited Guatemala. To my family and friends for their eternal support,
companionship and kindness.
For their support during the writing process, I would like to emphasise the support and constructive
feedback from my supervisor Martin Bak Jørgesen and Viktor Georgiev Kyosev. Both contributed
with valuable ideas, which have improved the quality of the report greatly, and have helped me realize
when I was writing excessively or unstructured. Without such critique, this report would have been
sloppy read.
Thesis | 2
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Research in contemporary social movements: a case study of Guatemala 2015 ............................................... 1
Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................................................... 2
List of Illustrations .................................................................................................................................... 6
1. Introduction ................................................................................................................................................... 7
1.1.1 Abstract............................................................................................................................................. 7
1.1.2 Reading guide ................................................................................................................................... 7
1.2.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................................................... 8
1.2.2 Problem area ..................................................................................................................................... 9
1.3.1 Problem formulation ....................................................................................................................... 10
1.3.2 Research Questions......................................................................................................................... 10
1.3.3 Purpose of research ......................................................................................................................... 10
2. Theory.......................................................................................................................................................... 11
2.1. Ontological position of research ....................................................................................................... 11
2.2 Epistemological position ................................................................................................................... 15
2.3 Analytical reasoning .......................................................................................................................... 18
2.4 Resource mobilization and political process theory .......................................................................... 20
2.4.1 Resource Mobilization [RM] .......................................................................................................... 20
2.4.2 Political Process Theory [PPT]....................................................................................................... 22
2.4.3 Units of analysis ............................................................................................................................. 23
2.4.4 Analytical framework ..................................................................................................................... 24
2.4.5 Smelser’s ‘value added’ theory ...................................................................................................... 25
2.5 Components of the value-added theory ............................................................................................. 28
2.6 Smelser’s theory of action ................................................................................................................. 29
2.5.1 Components of action in more detail. ............................................................................................. 31
2.5.2 Amendments to Smelser’s theoretical framework .......................................................................... 32
2.6 Literature review................................................................................................................................ 35
2.7 Analytical process.............................................................................................................................. 35
2.8 Limitations of research ...................................................................................................................... 36
3. Methodology................................................................................................................................................ 37
3.1 Research design ................................................................................................................................. 37
3.2 Strengths and weaknesses of the case study ...................................................................................... 38
3.2.1 Strengths ......................................................................................................................................... 38
3.2.2 Weaknesses..................................................................................................................................... 40
Thesis | 3
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
3.2.3 Case selection ................................................................................................................................. 41
3.3 Data sampling .................................................................................................................................... 43
3.4 Validity and reliability of data ........................................................................................................... 44
3.5 Research process................................................................................................................................ 44
4. Analysis ....................................................................................................................................................... 45
4.1 Structural conduciveness ................................................................................................................... 45
4.1.1 Social movements and mobilizations in recent years ..................................................................... 45
4.1.2 Political alliances and movement constituency .............................................................................. 47
4.1.3 Overcoming a culture of silence ..................................................................................................... 49
4.1.4 Strengthening the judicial system ................................................................................................... 52
4.2 Structural Strain ................................................................................................................................. 53
4.2.1 Strain and situational facilities ....................................................................................................... 54
4.2.2 Strain on mobilization into organizational roles ............................................................................. 57
4.2.3 Strain on norms............................................................................................................................... 58
4.2.4 Strain on values .............................................................................................................................. 58
4.3 Generalized belief .............................................................................................................................. 60
4.3.1 A longer process ............................................................................................................................. 60
4.3.1 Media support ................................................................................................................................. 61
4.4 Precipitating factors ........................................................................................................................... 63
4.5 Mobilization ...................................................................................................................................... 67
4.5.1 Movement organization characteristics .......................................................................................... 67
4.5.2 Means of mobilization .................................................................................................................... 68
4.5.3 Contracting organized support........................................................................................................ 70
4.5.4 Decentralized organization as strategy ........................................................................................... 71
4.6 Social controls ................................................................................................................................... 73
4.6.1 Preventive means (alleviating strain).............................................................................................. 73
4.6.2 Use of force .................................................................................................................................... 74
4.6.3 New corrupt structures, new strategies of control .......................................................................... 75
4.7 Last notes on PPT and RM ................................................................................................................ 78
Discussion................................................................................................................................................ 79
Conclusions ............................................................................................................................................. 82
7. Bibliography ........................................................................................................................................... 85
7.1 Books ................................................................................................................................................. 85
7.2 Scientific Articles .............................................................................................................................. 88
Thesis | 4
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
7.3 Other publications.............................................................................................................................. 93
Appendixes .............................................................................................................................................. 95
Appendix 1: Presidents of Guatemala, 1970-2016. ................................................................................. 97
Appendix 2: Hacking’s 4-square matrix of scientific ontology ............................................................... 98
Appendix 3: The value added theory framework, a closer discussion .................................................... 98
3.1: Underlying assumptions .................................................................................................................. 98
3.2. Components of the model ............................................................................................................... 101
Appendix 4: Crossley’s reconfiguration of Smelser’s value-added model ........................................... 104
Appendix 5: Theoretical contestations of the field ................................................................................ 106
5.1 Emergence of movements ............................................................................................................... 107
5.2 Distinctions between conventional, collective, and interest-group behavior .................................. 108
5.3 Nature of participants ...................................................................................................................... 109
5.4 Nature of movements....................................................................................................................... 110
5.5 Dynamics, growth, and spread of movement activity ..................................................................... 111
5.6 The role of organization .................................................................................................................. 112
5.7 Determinants of movement outcomes ............................................................................................. 112
5.8 Structure and agency ....................................................................................................................... 113
Appendix 6: Further elaboration on the research process and progression ........................................... 114
6.1 Research overview........................................................................................................................... 114
6.2 analytical process and relationship between data an theory ............................................................ 120
Appendix 7 images related to the social movements of GT 2015 ......................................................... 124
Appendix 8: Smelser’s theoretical models for analysis ......................................................................... 127
Appendix 9: Timeline reconstruction of social movement of 2015 ...................................................... 132
2011 ....................................................................................................................................................... 141
2012 ....................................................................................................................................................... 142
2013 ....................................................................................................................................................... 146
2014 ....................................................................................................................................................... 148
2015 ....................................................................................................................................................... 154
2016 ....................................................................................................................................................... 168
Appendix 10: General conceptual framework ....................................................................................... 177
Appendix 11: State violence and resistance .......................................................................................... 180
Appendix 12: some additional notions on PPT and RM theory in relation to the GT movement. ........ 182
Thesis | 5
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
List of Illustrations
Figure 1: Critical realism, stratum model
Page 17
Figure 2: The value-added framework
Page 26
Figure 3: Components of action
page 30
Figure 4: Traditional divisions of GT society
Page 48
Thesis | 6
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
1. Introduction
1.1.1 Abstract
This research paper uses Neil Smelser’s value-added analytical framework to evaluate the social
movements of Guatemala in 2015. The report considers the 6 components of the value added theory
as well as the 4 components for action that Smelser outlines as the primary determinants for collective
action. While this paper does not adopt the theory and analysis of collective behavior that Smelser
incorporates in his work, the research attempts to utilize the frame in an inquiry focusing on the
structural aspects of a contemporary social movement. Instead of adopting the traditional
conceptualizations of collective behavior, the research incorporates more recent approaches and
concepts to social movements and seeks to include contemporary questions of political processes and
resource mobilization instead inside of the analytical framework originally developed in 1962.
Overall, the attempt seeks to combine insight from three different paradigmatic approaches to social
movement studies, and to utilize the three approaches in conjunction to test the usefulness of the
value-added frame as a guiding lens for inquiries into social movements. The results, while only based
on a single case study, have been positive, and provide valuable reflections on the application and
accuracy of Smelser’s work. At the same time, it provides needed updates to the analytical frame by
incorporating the knowledge from more recent research.
1.1.2 Reading guide
In reading the paper, I recommend drawing appendix 9 out to keep as a reading companion. The
appendix covers my empirical grounding of the research and the timeline I have used to ground my
arguments. While the report can be read without keeping this along, I believe this particular appendix
is good to keep close. For many, the Guatemalan case may also be unfamiliar, for which the appendix
can also be helpful in ‘keeping track’ of events, which will not be presented in a historical order in
the report. Several elements have had to find their place here, because of the limitations of keystrokes
available for the assignment’s main body.
Otherwise, the report can be read as any other. I outline the report, findings, structure, problem area,
and purpose in the first part. The second part provides the theoretical backdrop of the research and
how it conceptualizes and understands social movements. The third part goes through the
methodological steps of the research and its logical progression of theorization. The fourth part is the
analysis, and the fifth and sixth discussions and conclusions.
Thesis | 7
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
1.2.1 Introduction
In the first quarter of 2015, something happened in Guatemala (GT). The work of the international
commission against impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) let to the uncovering of a massive corruption
scandal in the political class, spearheaded by president Otto Perez Molina and his Vice President
Roxanna Baldetti. This spurred massive demonstration quickly after the discoveries were publicized;
mobilizing demonstrations of more than a hundred thousand demonstrators each and escalating
rapidly as the scheduled presidential elections for the next term was drawing nearer. For the
demonstrators this was a critical point: they would not content themselves with President Molina’s
leave by the next election, they demanded that he renounced his presidency before the elections along
with Vice President Baldetti. This was ratified in movement slogans like #25A & #RenunciaYa –
originally twitter and Facebook ‘hashtags’ that called for the mobilizations to force the president and
vice president to renounce at once, but which later evolved into more organized political projects,
among others the #JusticiaYa1 ‘group’.
The renunciation of Molina and Baldetti before the
presidential elections of 2015 was important for the movement for several reasons. Historically, the
Guatemalan population has been living in a state of ‘fear and silence2’ following the internal conflict
between 1960-1996 between leftist insurgents and right-wing military strongmen ruling the state. The
internal conflict escalated to a brutal genocidal campaign in the years 1982-1983 with more than
200.000 civilians murdered, widespread ‘disappearings’, kidnappings, displacements, and other acts
of state terror against the population, and upwards of 1.5 million displaced, primarily of the
indigenous and rural population of the country3. The conflict continued until 1996 where a peace
treaty was finally signed by both parties at the ‘green palace’ in the center of Guatemala City.
Following the conflict, the population had generally been cowered into silence, as many
commentators have described it4, but this ended by April 2015. While opposition and outspokenness
had never completely vanished, it had remained, largely, repressed. The demonstrations of 2015
marked a change to this; the people had had enough of political corruption, fraudulence, nepotism,
despotism, arrogance, and impunity. They had remained silent for too long, but refused to be so any
Thesis | 8
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
longer and, even more importantly, the people started bringing forth their demands for justice. A
weak judicial system that had long been infiltrated by corruption and had allowed extensive impunity,
was appalling the population, which would not tolerate this any longer -they wanted Molina and
Baldetti ousted and convicted. As long as the President and his Vice President remained in office,
they were immune to the law and could not be indicted, and if they were allowed to prepare their
step-down until the next election, it was feared that they might get away with their crimes. Another
imminent fear, although overwhelmingly the most important aspect of the demonstrations was to
(re)assert the power of the people and their strife to rewrite a bloody history anew, this time with the
people in the lead and with the will of the masses first.
The goal was reached in two stages when Vice President Roxanna Baldetti renounced on May 8 th
2015 and later President Molina, reluctantly renounced on September 3rd 20155. Thirdly, Manuel
Baldizon, who many feared would become the next president, did not make it to the final election
round. At least some of the espoused goals were achieved. While these were the three primary goals,
other remain. The citizens of GT has been demanding more than the renunciation of the two executive
leaders, the less prominent but no less important goals, more far-reaching and progressive, still have
way to go. It is still questionable if these goals will be attainable, as the movement activity seems to
have subsided following the election of new president Jimmy Morales and the renunciations of the
former leadership. The still unfulfilled demands are; reforms of the state system, ending corruption
(still abound), strengthening of public institutions, improving public services including healthcare,
education and security, strengthening transparency and judicial systems as well as ending impunity.
1.2.2 Problem area
The problem area concerns the social movement itself and its achievements, organization,
strategies, resources, and relative success. These aspects, however, cannot be viewed without
including the contextual and historical circumstances in which the events have unfolded. As such,
the political situation, domestically and internationally, cultural influences, macro-economic and
macro-social indicators to describe the situation of the country are included to account for the
situation in which the social movement has emerged, operated, developed and spread, and which is
also the extrinsic reality that the movement has sought to influence.
Thesis | 9
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
1.3.1 Problem formulation
Why has the demonstration of Guatemala been so efficient in mobilizing the general population in
spite of both cultural and resource-based obstacles that should work against such mobilization? In
addition, how well and with what methods and strategies has the movement been able to create and
maintain its momentum through 4½ months of continuous demonstrations?
1.3.2 Research Questions
1. Which political processes facilitated or inhibited the relative success of the social movement in
achieving its asserted goals?
2. How has organizations influenced the developments of the social movement particularly in
relation to mobilization, resources, sustaining and spreading the social movement? This takes
into considerations both organization prior to and concurrent with the social movement.
3. How has the movement been able to overcome cultural and socio-economic obstacles and join
people from all parts of society in a unified movement?
1.3.3 Purpose of research
An important question of the social research project is to answer what the purpose of the research is.
(Bryman 2012: 6). This question can generally be visualized as two dimensional with ‘practical
implications and value’ being one extreme and ‘adding to the accumulation of knowledge’ being the
other extreme. The former category relates research in social sciences to practical matters and aspects
and aspires to research questions and provide answers that make a real difference in practical terms,
that is, for people in real life. On the other hand, research that focus on adding to the accumulation of
knowledge are not necessarily concerned whether or not the knowledge acquired through the research
contributes to make changes for people in their every-day lives. Research of this kind may or may
not have implications for real life practice but it is definitely not undertaken to meet any such
The purpose of this research falls in a category somewhere in between the two extremes goals. While
I see the possibility of the research to contribute to real-life issues and practices as desirable, I believe
the goal of adding to the generation of knowledge is equally important, the same view Becker,
Thesis | 10
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Bryman & Sempik found to be dominant amongst UK social policy researchers (Becker, Bryman &
Sempik 2006: 6). The inquiry is, therefore, not intended to favor any of the two extreme positions in
the two-dimensional evaluation framework presented above, adopted from Bryman’s definitions. I
have tried to balance the two influences by choosing an on-going situation, with active social
movement organizations and vast areas of contestation in the society in focus, and using this as a case
study for the research, thus focusing exclusively on a single-case instance of this particular
phenomenon and on its special characteristics. These practitioners, then, could benefit from the
conclusions of this study in the continuing struggle to end corruption, political impunity and social
injustice, albeit whether or not they may I cannot assess from the outset of the research. The reason
is that in order to balance the importance of adding to the existing pool of knowledge, the study is
modeled towards this ambition rather than the former. Thus, the research is directed towards questions
pertaining to the existing literature and towards testing these practically, rather than questions directed
towards influencing practices and making changes.
2. Theory
2.1. Ontological position of research
In this section, I will proceed to develop the ontological and epistemological approach applied n this
research. This paper adheres to the critical realist paradigm, albeit a ‘weaker version’ and with several
accessions. Before entertaining those, however, I will start by expanding on my understanding of
critical realism and the way it influences the research conducted in this paper, practically and
Thesis | 11
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
2.1.1 Critical realism
I consider realism broadly as a ‘grand social theory’ at a level of abstraction where it is difficult to
link it with practical matters in the real world (Bryman 2012: 21; Baur 2009: 106). In Baur’s words,
this level of abstraction considers “general concepts about what society is, which concepts are central
to analysis… what the nature of reality is, what assumptions have to be made in order to grasp this
reality… and how –on this basis – theory and data can be linked on a general level” (ibid.). As such,
this is not the level of abstraction at which the analysis will be directed. Rather from this level of
abstraction mid-range theories will be applied to connect the overarching ontological assumptions
with ‘the real world’ to help explain the relationship between the two: the very abstract levels of
theory (ontologically - realism) and what we actually see in the real world (empirical observations).
The particular approach I employ in this paper I refer to as ‘critical realism’ for simplicity’s sake,
using the ‘generic name’ that encompasses a rather broad range of ‘realisms’. In an extensive review
of the realist approach, Maxwell makes the same case for his discussion of realism (Maxwell 2012:
5) in order to simplify and synthesize various takes on the realist approach, i.e. Lakoff’s ‘experiential
realism (Lakoff 1987), Giere’s ‘constructive realism (Giere 1999) or Barad’s ‘agential realism’
(Barad 2007), to name just a few of the various adaptations cited. However, the first fundamental
proposition of realism, as “that there is an external reality to which scientists direct their attention
(in other words there is a reality that is separate from our description of it)” (Bryman 2012: 29). This
understanding, that there is a ‘real’ world and that it can be observed and studied is a central element
of realism that it shares with positivism.
How this translates into theoretical description, however, is a central, unresolved debate inside the
realist paradigm. Bryman accounts for two different realist takes on this: ‘naïve realism’ and ‘critical
realism’. Naïve realism is most closely related to the positivist paradigm sharing at least two
assumption: 1) that scientists can study the real world and that the real world can be understood
through the use of appropriate methods and 2) that the social sciences should seek to emulate the
scientific methodologies of the natural sciences (this assumption is not exclusive to the various naïve
approaches but more closely related to it than to the critical). The critical approach, on the other hand,
argues that “the scientist’s conceptualization is simply a way of knowing that reality [the external
Baur terms these ‘social theories’ but the level of abstraction and elements involved are the same as those employed
by Bryman who uses the term ‘grand theories’.
Thesis | 12
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
‘real world’]… ‘science, then, is the systematic attempt to express in thought the structures and ways
of acting of things that exist and act independently of thought’” (ibid. p. 29; Bashkar 1975: 250 cited
by Bryman). Critical realism thus accepts largely the same position as has been put forth by the
postmodernist7 school of thought, that language is imperfect and can only provide subjective
renditions of reality. In other words, it is accepted that ‘categories employed to understand reality is
likely provisional’ and that there is a distinction between: a) the terms and categories employed to
describe reality and b) that reality itself (Bryman 2012: 29). Similarly Maxwell argues that the
common ground for all of the realist approaches that he terms under ‘critical realism’ is that they all
“deny that we can have any ‘objective’ or ‘certain’ knowledge of the world, and accept the possibility
of alternative valid accounts of any phenomenon” (Maxwell 2012: 5). As a result, theories about the
world, like the language they are formulated in are, at best, incomplete, and likely partial and/or
fallible, theories are models and they do not present a one-to-one correspondence with the real world
when translated into other forms of representation. He adds that this particular combination is often
viewed as a ‘realist ontological stance combined with an epistemological constructivist stance’ (ibid.
p. 5-6).
In contrast to constructivism, realism posits that there is an objective, mutually experienced reality.
Realism rejects the notion that there are ‘multiple realities’ as well as the notion that reality is
‘created’ or that these ‘multiple realities’ are incommensurable or independent (ibid. p. 9).
2.1.2 Concepts and ‘the real world’
These notions additionally calls for an explanation of theoretical models and their relations to ‘the
real world’ and to ‘conceptual formulations’ – how are the boundaries drawn between the two, and
perhaps especially for concepts that does not exactly lend themselves to direct observation. For
instance; the notion of ‘organization’. It is evident that that organization is everywhere. Intuitively
the word brings forth connotations to real world entities that seem real enough (like the WWF – an
‘NGO’ - non-governmental organization), and we may readily say that this is an organization.
However, defining the organization itself is much more complicated than is pointing to something
and saying ‘this is it’. Because, while the expression of the organization is readily visible in buildings,
artifacts, documents, arrangements, and alike, none of these constitute of themselves the organization,
Most well-known proponents of this paradigm are French researchers such as Rorty, Boudrillard, Lyotard and Derrida.
Thesis | 13
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
and neither is there a synthetic constitution of the various compositional elements that make up the
definition of an organization8 (Taylor & Van Every 2011:1-2).
This is a crucial junction between the real world and the theoretical concepts that are applied to study
it. In the realist approach, it is assumed that there exist fundamental organizing principles9 that
underlie what we can observe in the real world, but that we may not be able to observe these. In other
words, what we call organization in everyday speech may be only a product of ‘deeper structures10’
of organizing principles. The concepts that are employed to describe these manifestation
(organization, corporation, community, fraternity, etc.), even if they are merely ‘labels’, theoretical
concepts, or everyday terms employed to make sense of the real world that the people employing
those terms live in, these concepts are treated as real in the same sense as the world they seek to
describe (incomplete, partial or infallible as they may be). This is to say that the conceptualizations
of the world that may (or may not) only exist as mental depictions or descriptions of the world,
devised for making sense of it, should not be treated as less real than the world itself. This is true
because whatever conceptualizations are applied to create intelligible models of the world that can be
used constructively and communicated effectively, will inevitable form part of the influential
mechanisms that are part of shaping human action11.
It is my hope that this example provides an intelligible illustration of the epistemological
constructivism accompanying the ontological realist position of this research (see also Maxwell 2012:
5; Lakoff 1987: 265; Ingemann 2013: 164: Searle 1995)12. The assumptions, elaborated here in
relation to the concept of organization, are general for all conceptualizations utilized in the research,
such as ‘social movement’, ‘political opportunity’, etc. The illustration based on organization was
chosen because the organization is a focal point of interest for the research.
In other words, it is difficult to say an organization is ‘two computers, two people and one small office with a coffee
machine’, or to formulate any similar definition based solely on compositional elements of the organization.
Gravity may provide a fitting example from the world of physics: like the basic idea I outline here, gravity cannot be
seen in itself, it is completely impalpable and can only be observed through its influence on other objects. This intricacy
of the force of gravity, that it is omnipresent but only observable through its manifestations, has made the study of it a
complex question of physics.
This point will be illustrated further below in section 2.2 on the epistemological position of the research.
This can also argued as a recognition of a weak version of linguistic relativity - also known as the Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis (Hussein 2012) which Maxwell refers to as “a form of epistemological constructivism or relativism”
(Maxwell 2012: 5).
Hacking (1983) provides a 4-square matrix to explain the same point in a similar way. In his terminology the research
here follows a realism approach to entities and an anti-realist approach to theories (see appendix 2)
Thesis | 14
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
2.1.3 Causation
Above, in section 2.1, I mentioned that the ontological stance of critical realism assumes that there
exists a world of ‘deeper structures’ which can be understood as the ‘fundamental principles’ that
operate below the level of what we may be able to observe. This notion implicates an assumption
about causation- that the existence of causal links are equally accepted as real would be the only
reasonable deduction if we have already accepted the existence of ‘fundamental organizing
principles’. I mean to assert this acceptance of causal mechanisms here; however, the view of causal
links adopted takes some reservations. Firstly, not all mechanisms are necessarily invariant across
time and space and secondly, that the ability of causal mechanisms to manifest themselves are
dependent on a nexus of causal potentials in a given context (Ingemann 2013: 94). Causal potential
refers, here, to an understanding of society as constitution of many different ‘layers’ of complexity.
At each level, there are various causal mechanisms existing but every time we move to a higher level
of abstraction, the complexity is likewise increased. Ingemann provides as an example that a given
society is composed of biological individuals. These can be viewed at the level of abstraction of
biology (a lower level) which can in turn be viewed at the level of chemistry (even lower level), etc.
However, this does not implicate that the society, then, can (or should) be viewed as simply a
composition of bio-chemical processes. Rather, every time we move up one level of abstraction, new
potential causal principles are introduced and the complexity is likewise increased (ibid.). Scientific
explanations in the spheres of societal analysis therefore cannot be reduced to mono-causal
mechanisms. Instead, the critical realism ontology suggests scientific theory should provide multicausal explanations for societal phenomena with causal potential existing at every level of
abstraction. Consequently, this limits the utility of experiments for the epistemological approach;
these aspects of reality can only be explored by observation and analysis of real societal situations
and phenomena13 (Bashkar 2008). But this assumption does connect well with the analytical
framework adapted in this research (see section 2.4.4).
2.2 Epistemological position
Although the primary focus here is concerned with structural aspects of social movement research
and, accordingly, adopt a theoretical framework aligned with this approach, the research is still
Tough experiments can be used to test for causal potential in isolation. This, however, is not the principle interest of
the critical realism approach. Rather, critical realism seeks to uncover in which relations causal potentials are ‘released’
and how some mechanisms interact with other, etc. (Ingemann 2013: 94).
Thesis | 15
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
considered qualitative because the methodology and analytical approach is modeled around a
qualitative design. Therefore, the epistemological approach of the research follows the interpretative
paradigm. Bryman, citing Von Wright (Bryman 2012: 28 – Von Wright 1971), argues that
interpretivism contrasts the positivist paradigm and has been the outcome of a clash between
positivism and hermeneutics. The aim of interpretivism, therefore, is a position somewhat between
the two extremities: of positivism, aiming to provide explanations for human behavior; and
hermeneutics, which’s emphasis is on the understanding of human behavior (original emphases).
Ideally, the research design would incorporate a greater emphasis on participation and close
observation: ‘on-scene’ participatory analyses and interviews with participants, which would have
allowed for the ‘closest’ view of the activities, culture, organization, understandings and meanings at
play in the social movement. This is merely to point attention to some of the weaknesses of this
research; other areas that demand attention and research but which this inquiry cannot address
because participation has not been possible14. Interviews would have been possible to an extent,
though the quality of these would not have been of a standard that would satisfy an inquiry based
solely on interviews, for several reasons15.
The epistemological approach of this research, therefore, has focused on disseminating a ‘body of
data’: a compilation of accounts of the social movement, which should be viewed rather as an
historical record than an immediate observation of the events at hand. In other words, the analysis of
the research focuses on what I term ‘accounts’ of the events, though from the list above it should be
evident that the term ‘account’ is stretched to included many types of data that are often, in other
types of inquiries, treated as distinct sources. The reason I use the term ‘accounts’ is not to create a
distinctive quality of the data included but to make a sense of the way the empirical data is treated.
In other words, the data included in the assignment is considered as accounts of the events that have
unfolded in Guatemala in 2015, and are treated so; as accounts and reports. The definitive quality of
which is that they are accounts or testimonies of what has happened. They can be considered as true,
at least to the extent that they provide ‘a perspective’ on the case; a certain glimpse of insight into
what has happened; ‘a frame16’ or interpretation, in all cases an ‘incomplete’ elaboration of that reality
(recall also the argument of section 2.1 on critical realism). This is the case because the approach
See section 2.8 for an elaboration of the limitations of the research.
Some of these issues are; availability of interviewees, difficulties in arrangements, interview planning, techniques,
and verification issues, etc. Primarily, arrangement and availability of interviewees have been the obstacles hindering
such an approach, though the other factors are also significant.
This research is not particularly associated with frame analysis however. Frames, here, are understood in a similar
manner, but the analysis is not directed towards a frame analysis in the conventional sense.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
understands the subjects under study as being sense makers and their creations (i.e. artifacts, stories,
accounts, etc.) are products of a process of interpretation and reformulation. The task of the researcher
therefore becomes to “reach beyond the experience of the moment to comprehend intuitively and
theoretically the patterned network of interdependent relationships that give events their meaning for
those who are involved.” (Taylor & Van Every 2011: 21)17. What should be apparent from the above
elaboration is that there are elements of the real world that we are able to observe and there are
elements that we are unable to observe directly. What we can see, in accordance with our ontological
assumptions, is the manifestations of ‘deeper layers of principles’ it is as if we are watching the ‘top
of an iceberg’ (Ingemann 2013: 91-94).
Ingemann relates this part of the critical realist ontology to ‘Popper’s problem’ -or; the ‘induction
issue18’ that critical realism has sought to address. Popper pioneered the critical rationalism ontology
with a foundation on a critique of positivism, and his main argument was a formulation of what
Ingeman terms the ‘induction problem’ which, in short, challenges the positivist approach developed
as a social science ‘equivalent’ to the natural sciences’ methodological approach. In other words, this
critique strongly challenged the social sciences reliance on inductive research. The issue of the limited
explanatory power of inductive logic can only be resolved by moving beyond induction because it is
insufficient to explain the deeper organizing principles of which we can only observe the
manifestations. The goal is to explain what lies ‘beneath’ that which we observe through induction19
(or observation – what we can learn from ‘accounts’), and to do so other forms of logic must be
invoked. Model 1.1 below is presented in Ingemann (2013: 93) but is originally from Jespersen 2007:
102. The goal is to illustrate the ‘layers’ or ‘strata’ of reality: the empirical and factual are the ones
that we can measure and observe, whereas the ‘deep stratum’ is where the ‘hidden causal
mechanisms’, ‘fundamental principles’, etc. are operating. Ingemann refers to this as the ‘theoretical’
level, i.e. the level of abstraction –or simply ‘the lower part of the iceberg’20. In order to explain the
deep stratum, critical realism therefore calls for abstraction, i.e. theory, to explain the phenomena.
This is also related to the research design as a case study and is also meant to emphasize the importance of context
(see also Ingemann 2013: 89 for a longer discussion of this point in relation to critical realism).
Popper is often cited as the ‘father’ of the critical realist approach (Ingemann 2013: 73; Colin & Køppe 2003: 98).
His critical rationalism is similar to but not the same as critical realism but most importantly, he pioneered the critique
against positivism (see Popper 1959[2002] & Popper 1963) revealing the limitations of inductive logic.
In terms of culture, this explanation can also be held up with Edgar Schein’s ‘iceberg’ model of culture and almost
equally with Hofstede’s ‘onion model’.
It should be noted that no layer is seen as invariant in nature. For instance; power structures and institutional
conditions may be more resilient to historical development, but they are, nevertheless, neither ‘eternal’ or ‘unchanging’
at best they may be cover terms that are contextual but unavoidable (such as power structures which are never ‘pregiven’ but they are, however, difficult to avoid entirely).
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
The part of abstraction is a rationalization on behalf of the explanation, which is a reasoning, here,
based on an abductive approach (see section 2.3 below).
Figure 1: critical realism, stratum model
2.3 Analytical reasoning
The explorative approach of the research has been guided by an abductive reasoning in its initial
stages, which is supported by an iterative relation between theory and data. The abductive reasoning
was coined by Charles Sanders Pierce, though he first introduced the type of reasoning as ‘guessing’
at around 1901 (Pierce 1901). Pierce saw abduction as part of hypothesis-forming in scientific inquiry
as well as in everyday reasoning about unexpected events, going as far as to argue that abduction is
the only logical way in which ideas are formulated; “all the ideas of science come to it by way of
abduction”21. Abduction, therefore, is linked intuitively with discovery and exploration because
abduction necessarily deals with the formation of hypotheses about unexpected events (though not
irregular events, a formulation that Pierce did not support22). From this initial aspect of discovery,
the hypothesis-forming, further inquiries can later be made to confirm, falsify or expand this; the
original hypothesis (or hypotheses), adopting both inductive and deductive reasoning based on
empirical observations (Svennevig 1997: 4).
Pierce quoted in Psillos (2011)
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Pierce’s general critique of the inductive and deductive approaches is based on his two-dimensional
framework of reasoning. He argues that there are two types of ‘desiderata’ [aims] to reasoning that
logicians should seek when they study different types of reasoning: uberty and security. According
to Pierce, uberty refers to a type of reasoning’s capability to produce additional content, its ‘value in
productiveness’ and security refers to a type of reasoning’s ability to make conclusions that are at
least as certain as their premises, that is ‘leaving an absolute inability to doubt the truth of the
conclusions as long as the premises are assumed to be true’23. From these two premises, Pierce
regards deductive logic as being exclusively concerned with security and inductive logic to be
somewhere in between. Abductive logic, then, is most closely related with uberty and least with
security. This type of reasoning that possess the capability to produce new content in the process of
reasoning is also called ‘ampliative’ and ‘generative’ referring to its ability to expand on its own
premises and data available for inquiry (ibid.)
Abductive reasoning, then, can be described as ‘a flexible and revising relation between empirical
categories and theoretical concepts’ (Halkier 2012: 4). This necessitates that the researcher keeps a
‘systematically open mind towards several possible interpretations of categories and dynamics of the
empirical field’ (ibid. see also Jensen 2002: 263-266). In other words, working with theory is neither
a strictly inductive or deductive process through the research, and that the theoretical and empirical
categories are not strictly defined designs that are held consistent throughout the research process.
Most importantly, these categories are held open for questioning, testing, reapplication and ‘resystematization’. In other words, the research design and the relationship between data and theory is
a flexible design that allows for reexamination and reinterpretation of the situation, data and theory
and the relation(s) and premises of each. Secondly, it also means that the analysis is neither, strictly
speaking, testing hypotheses or looking for confirmation of the same. As ‘explorers upon untrodden
ground’ to paraphrase Pierce (Psillos 2011), the study does not exclude theory nor inductive or
deductive reasoning. It endeavors to go ‘beyond the existing content’ and to add value to the existing
body of knowledge by ‘correlating and integrating the facts into a more general description, that is,
relating them to a wider context’ (Givon 1989 quoted in Svennevig 1997).
Pierce quoted in Psillos (2011: 121)
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
It should be noted that the choice of reasoning has had much influence on the research design and
theoretical contemplations as well, which I have sought to emphasize in the respective sections of
this paper.
2.4 Resource mobilization and political process theory
Both approaches are incorporated ‘inside’ of the theoretical framework developed by Neil Smelser
(introduced in section 2.4.4 below) in order to draw on the rich literature and the extended knowledge
that has been developed since the value-added theory from 1962. The resource mobilization [RM]
view is adopted in the research approach to evaluate specific questions in relation to organization and
resources and contributes with both theoretical concepts, questions, and analytical tools. Additionally,
knowledge that has already been developed in the literature about how social movements have
administered and mobilized resources and which aspects have, in other cases, been important for the
movements’ success and survival-rate. Likewise, the political process view [PPT] is developed
specifically to inquiries into the political environment of social movements and has in later years also
incorporated cultural elements such as narratives, frames, emotions and more. This view is adopted
in order to emphasize and analyze the external conditions that influence movement development,
mobilization, success, and strategic and tactical choices as well as for its contribution of knowledge
from research following the approach. Below I will provide a short outline of both approaches.
2.4.1 Resource Mobilization [RM]
The resource mobilization paradigm was first introduced by Zald & Ash (1966) when they noted that
social movement organizations (SMOs) are unique entities that require special consideration in
relation to their particular area of inquiry (Caniglia & Carmin 2010: 201). With this discovery,
research in the field relatively quickly came to regard organizations as a critical basis for mobilization.
The approach, however, was soon incorporated under the political opportunity approach (later
renamed as political process approach ((PPT)), which considered primarily social movements in
relation to their political environment and sought to construct predictive, invariable models around
social movements’ structural characteristics in combination with the structural characteristics of the
political environment.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
The RM paradigm started out as a deliberate critique of the former assumptions about the irrationality
of movement participants and questioned how mobilization and strategizing could be possible if the
essential assumptions of the traditional views were true (see appendix 7 for additional details). The
traditional views based on collective psychology had posited a psychological explanation for
participant motivations in social movements and analyzed movement action as non-institutional
phenomena in response to systemic breakdowns, rapid societal development, mal-integration or
isolation, and similar theories, mostly in relation to Marxist and structural-functionalist societal
conceptualizations. The resource mobilization approach, on the other hand, viewed participants as
rational actors pursuing political interests. This assumption fundamentally changed the perception of
movement recruits as ‘isolated, rootless individuals seeking to immerse themselves in the mass as a
surrogate for their marginalization’ (Della Porta & Diani 2006: 15). The notion of familiar ties and
solidary networks inside or related to social movements was the fundamental outset of RM theory,
which sought to document and analyze these networks in closer as well as challenge the traditional
theses of irrationality of movement participants.
It was argued from the onset of the RM approach, that tensions and structural conflicts (strain) were
enough for social movements to develop. The transformation of individual strain into organized
movements, instead, was taken as the point of departure for social movement studies in the new
paradigm and its central focus was on the organizational, material and individual resources that
allowed for a transformation of individually held beliefs into a social movement. The capacity for
mobilization depends on material resources such as money, facilities, work, tools, etc. and nonmaterial resources such as authority, experience, leadership, moral engagement, friendship, family
ties, etc. These resources, then, are distributed strategically across a range of movement objectives in
order to meet certain goals, all of which is encapsulated in the notion of the SMO. ‘The types and
nature of the resources available hence explain the range of tactical choices and allocation of
resources as well as the consequences of the social movement on its immediate political and social
environment’ (ibid).
Through this research, the central tenet of the RM paradigm remains with the study of how
organization and resources have influenced both the capacity for mobilization, mobilization itself,
and strategic choices on behalf of the social movement. We shall seek to relate these factors to the
relative success of the social movement by the end, but in relation to our findings related to political
processes and the overall analytical framework.
Thesis | 21
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
2.4.2 Political Process Theory [PPT]
The logical consequence of the findings of the RM approach was the development into the PPT
approach which went on to focus on the political environment of the social movement and which also
paid considerable attention to the findings of the RM paradigm. The PPT approach sought to
emphasize the importance of the environment of the social movement and how the characteristics of
it influenced the relative success of the social movement in meeting asserted goals. PPT became a
natural consequence of RM, primarily because of the reconceptualization of collective action i.e.
social movements, as rational and goal oriented. Because of this, social movement struggles became
seen rather as political projects than manifestations of psychological strains. The central tenet of the
PPT theory was to determine the forms and intensity of social movements (ibid), although the
paradigm evolved to include several more facets.
Initially the paradigm was named Political Opportunity Theory (POS) but through a gradual
refinement of the approach, the name was later updated in order to rid itself of some anomalies that
had originally been core assumptions of the approach. Particularly the language of political structures
and invariant models was abandoned in search for more qualitative and dynamic concepts. The POS
approach is still in existence and continues to inform some studies, but its influence has been
diminishing in recent years (Rutland 2013: 992).
The PPT, in contrast, focusses on processes rather than structures. This emphasizes both historic and
contextual contingencies over structures as well as interaction between elements of the analysis and
the development of the subjects throughout the analysis. Rather than positing a rigid structural model
for social movements, PPT emphasizes dynamics, tactics and strategies available to social
movements, how they can apply, them, etc. and relates this to the political process of the interaction
between the social movement and its environment. Several lines of inquiry have developed along this
route; frame analysis, identity analysis, network analysis, etc. with which we are not particularly
concerned. Not because these are not valuable and useful paths of inquiry, but in order to limit the
scope of the research to a realistic perspective.
What we are particularly concerned with, however, is the general political landscape of the social
movement. The relative openness of the polity; the levels of repression, the access of citizens to the
political arena, relative representation in the political arena, the strategies employed by political
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
opponents, the interaction between the social movement and its political environments, the effect of
the strategies adopted by the social movement, etc. We then aim to connect our observations with
our findings here with our observations in the RM paradigm and to analyze them systematically inside
of the value-added analytical frame.
2.4.3 Units of analysis
The research addresses several aspects of the social movements and incorporates two different
approaches and therefore the units of analysis varies more than they might do in inquiries
incorporating only a single research paradigm. In this section, I will try to elaborate on the
differences between the two paradigmatic approaches in relation to the units of analysis.
In the PPT approach, the unit of analysis starts with the social movement at the aggregate level. The
social movement is analyzed in relation to other societal components and their influence on the
social movements’ ability to assert its demands, mobilize support and their availability of strategies
to meet these ends. In this approach social movements are rarely disseminated internally in detail,
and neither are their participants and the internal and ‘smaller scale dynamics’ researched in more
detailed because the level of abstraction is ‘higher’. Likewise, other entities are analyzed at a
similar level of abstraction, for instance political coalitions, alignment of political organizations,
culture at the societal level, and societal structures such as institutional analyses, macro-economics,
and alike. The goal is to be able to create theories at the larger, political level. These theories often
concern the success of social movements, i.e. how efficient they are at meeting their stated goals
(tax reform, political reform, etc.), and hope to be able to provide explanations for success at the
‘larger scales’ rather than at the ‘smaller levels’ of the social movements.
In the RM approach, the social movement organization in relation to resource mobilization is of
primary importance and hence the level of analysis is on a smaller scale than in the PPT approach.
The term ‘resources’ refers to resources in the abstract and therefore incorporates more than money,
though in many studies funding has been an important aspect of movement activities as well.
However, resources are more than money; skill, talent, know-how, locales, equipment, access to
political channels, news media, etc. can all be treated as resources under the RM approach, and the
way organization facilitates the mobilization of all these types of resources is of interest. Hence, in
the RM approach the unit of analysis is constituted by the types of organization that constitute the
social movement and how organization help facilitate mobilization of resources.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
The two approaches therefore consider two distinct levels of inquiries: the level of organization
(RM) and the larger ‘societal level’ in which social movements constitutes merely a part of the
political process. The research here deals with both, and the analysis distinguishes between the two
levels of abstraction in its application of theory. Importantly, in prior studies the combination of
RM and PPT has been adopted in various other inquires to examine the relationship between the
organization level and political processes. Hence, the combination here is no novel contribution to
the methodological repertoire of SMO studies. On the other hand, the prior application of this
combined paradigmatic approach gives some certainty as to the feasibility of the combination that a
novel combination could not provide.
2.4.4 Analytical framework
The study is modelled around Smelser’s ‘value-added’ structural research inquiry with some
amendments made to the original framework. The analytical process is modelled on this framework
in order to define a structure for the analytical approach that gives shape to the way the analysis is
conducted and the order in which various elements are looked at and treated. Smelser’s framework
provides such an order and a simple and illustrative way to ‘guide’ the analytical process and areas
of inquiry. Therefore, it sets the overall frame for of the inquiry and its handling of various elements
in the analytical process.
To be more precise about this, it gives form to the process of social movements in a theoretical sense
that does not violate important aspects of social movements by ‘over-simplification’ or by too rigid
definitions that would, one way or another, leave out many kinds of social movements for one reason
or the other. The model itself is not prescriptive of what makes up the social movement, how it acts,
strategizes, whom its members are, etc. Instead, it provides a framework to analyze the process by
which a social movement occurs without too many predefined theoretical elements (Crossley 2006).
The most essential aspect of the model is its progression through its six 6 factors, more than the 6
factors in themselves.
Hence the framework provides the theoretical explanation of a progression through 6 factors that are
influential in the development of a social movement, but while the progression is held independent,
the 6 factors are open for variation that is case-specific. This provides an important insight into the
development of the movement over time as well as the particular ‘moments’ in which certain factors
Thesis | 24
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
are ‘activated’. While this may be a simplified 24 model, it nevertheless provides a useful way of
viewing and treating the development of the social movement.
Within this theoretical scope of the sequential development of the social movement, I have adopted
two other social movement research paradigms in order to ‘fill’ the categories of the theory with more
precise theoretical formulations about the particular factors concerning the development of the social
movement. While Smelser’s theory was is of particular importance for is development of sequential
development and analytical components, these theoretical approaches are adopted to deal more
specifically with the particularities of the social movement. Furthermore, these paradigms provide
valuable understandings, techniques, and concepts from newer research, which is intended to augment
Smelser’s fundamental argument of his theory rather than contradicting or changing it.
2.4.5 Smelser’s ‘value added’ theory
I apply this analytical framework developed by Neil Smelser in 1962 (Smesler 1962) as the
overarching theoretical formulation for the inquiry into social movements. Smelser developed this
theory at a time where social movement studies were still relatively young, which means much theory
has later contributed to the literature and knowledge about social movements and social movement
research. For this reason, we cannot simply adopt the framework as it were in 1962 when Smelser
developed it, however, it will function for as a useful model to guide the research. The application of
the framework for research follows very closely the reconfigured outlines of the theory developed by
Crossley (2006).
The ‘value added’ framework for social movement research is adapted from economics studies and
starts out from three primary assumptions:
1) Social movements are not categorized by either:
a. Size
b. Temporal characteristics
c. Psychological characteristics
d. Forms of communication or interaction
2) Social movements are defined as:
See section 2.5.2 below for a longer discussion on the theoretical amendments to the original theory.
Thesis | 25
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
a. ‘A mobilization on the basis of a belief that redefines social action
b. Is guided by generalized belief
c. That collective behavior is constituted from ‘non-institutionalized action’ – action that
is “formed or forged to meet undefined or unstructured situations”.
3) A structural theory must provide more than determinants for social movements; a framework
of interpretation that describes exactly which determinants lead to what kind of movements
(types of collective behavior)25.
On the basis of these, Smelser first provides a criticism of the prior literature on social movements,
amongst other things theoretical definitions of the term itself26 as well as the theoretical explanations
provided in much of the literature, before he proceeds to develop his own model, the value-added
framework. The Most important aspect of the framework is, that in order for step 2 to occur, the
premises of step 1 most first have been fulfilled. For step, three both two and one most have been
fulfilled first and so on. Smelser exemplifies this with a metaphor of the production and assembly of
a car. There are many steps in this process, but every step along the way must be completed before
the next can commence. The second very important qualification is that it distinguishes between
existence and activation. Thus a particular determinant may exist prior to being activated but the
activation has to occur in the order prescribed by the model (first 1 then 2, 3, etc.). Generally speaking
the existence of a determinant (or several) is independent of the progressive logic of the model, but
the activation of the determinant will always fall within the succession described. I will provide
further examples after presenting the model in the illustration below and elaborating further on its
Smelser criticizes various other approaches such as psychological explanations and historical explanations for merely
providing symptoms or determinants without a concrete structure. The idea of the value-added model was to solve
exactly this issue. I will remark again, that we are not interested in collective behavior per se here, which is the reason
for the parenthesis.
He only reluctantly adopts the tern ‘collective action’ himself, in a lack of better alternatives.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Figure 2: the value-added framework
Smelser only provides a written explanation of the model, not an illustration, so the model presented
is my own interpretation of his work. On the left hand side are all the ‘steps’ needed in order for a
social movement to develop and, furthermore, the order in which these must occur. On the right-hand
side are the factors that inhibit a social movement from developing, in various ways. The most
important observation to make about the illustration is not to interpret the 6th determinant (social
control) as operating ‘from the outside’ against the 5 other determinants that are operating ‘on the
inside’ of the social movement, or in other words, that the two parts are ‘directly oppositional’ or
‘non-intertwined’. Smelser states that “the study of social control is the study of those counterdeterminants which prevent, interrupt, deflect, of inhibit the accumulation of the determinants just
reviewed.” Put simply, they may very well be intrinsically connected with elements of the first 5
determinants that promote arise of social movements and as such should not be viewed as strictly
‘counter-positional-‘ to the first 5 determinants. In the middle I have shown a ‘bar’ in order to promote
the idea of two forces, one working for the development of the movement and one working against27.
I have done so to promote the idea that there are factors working ‘for’ the social movement and factors
working against it. However, it will be up to empirical evaluation to illuminate how this works out in
practice. A particularly important critique of the structural bias that this, unwillingly, may promote is
provided by Goodwin & Jasper (1999) whom evaluates the structural biases of PPT. The critique
points out for instance, that state-repression or violence effectively inhibits social movement
This two-dimensional image lends credit to other ideas from similar studies like Litwin’s force-field model of
organizational change (Burnes & Cooke 2013; Swanson & Creed 2014), to ideas from the political process view within
social movement research (For instance Oberschall 1983) and traditional class-struggle view of Marxist scholars.
Thesis | 27
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
development, mobilization and spread28
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
. Such ‘invariant’ structures simply do not appear to be
able to provide general laws of social movements; they do not even appear to ‘exist at all’ (Tilly 1995:
159630). Therefore, the ‘balance’ on the model above is, perhaps, more important than the factors
included in the model itself, as these are up for empirical testing with regards to their effectiveness in
moving ‘the bar’ back and forth, in favor of -or against, the rise of a social movement. Additionally,
many factors can simultaneously work on both sides depending on the context as Goodwin & Jasper
(1999) evaluates in their critique Hence, the definition adopted here, with regards to those means of
social control, is not only whether they actually repress or inhibit social movements, but also whether
or not they are intended to repress of inhibit social action. How they work in practice will be
concluded based on an analysis of the empirical data, thus not defined a priori based on theoretical
predetermined definitions. In appendix 3 I have provided a further elaboration of the components of
the model and of the underlying theoretical assumptions.
2.5 Components of the value-added theory
The value-added theoretical frame contains 6 components which are considered as determinants for
collective action. In the original theory, the six determinants must be activated for collective behavior to
develop. Furthermore, the particular combinations of the determinants can then be utilized to explain and
predict which kinds of collective behavior will emerge as a result. In this research, however, we do not follow
these conclusions (see also section 2.5.2), but a brief outline of the components must be provided.
Structural conduciveness: sets the frame for the social movement. It defines the structural particulars of a
situation within which the social movement acts. Structural conduciveness is closely connected to PPT
research, because this component primarily considers the external conditions of the movement. In short, the
surrounding, structural characteristics of the Social movement and how these sets the frame of action is what
structural conduciveness considers.
Structural Strain considers the underlying grievances of the social movement, those hardships or unjustly
relations that social movements usually aim to express. The value-added theory is build around Parsons and
For instance, the case of the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua presents a case in which state-repression by force and
indiscriminate violence is increase but in which popular resistance is likewise increased (Brockett 1995).
See also Davenport & Loyle (2012) who likewise find that state repression does not necessarily counter dissidence.
Tilly’s full quote included to emphasize his modality towards the existence of an invariant theory: “the employment of
invariant models… assumes a political world in which whole structures and sequences repeat themselves time after
time in essentially the same form. That would be a convenient world for theorists, but it does not exist.”
Thesis | 28
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Shills’ model of action, which we will evaluate in more detail below. The component is used to classify ‘which
kind of strain’ is the root cause of a social movement, and is closely related to generalized belief.
Genrealized belief is, generally put, an explanation for the causes of strain; an identification of responsibility
for the experienced strain. The generalized belief is in the original formulation defined as a crude argument
about causes and effect, but we do not follow this assumption. Rather, generalized belief are understood as
vastly more complex and nuanced. In contemporary movement studies, frame analysis are closely related to
this component. However, generalized belief is part of preparing participants for action by providing a rationale
for action which leads towards collective action and irregular means (such as strikes, protests, etc.)
Precipitating factors usually ‘triggers’ the outburst of a social movement by providing a clear exemplification
of what was generally assumed under the generalized belief. After people have been ‘readied for action’ a
precipitating event is typically all that is needed for an outbreak of collective behavior. These events are often
characterized as ‘dramatic’ and the events is typically either confirms or justifies the generalized belief. They
give the generalized belief concrete substance and, in this way, ‘provide a concrete setting toward which
collective action can be directed’.
Mobilization is not given much attention in the theoretical development in Smelser’s work, but is concerned
with how participants are mobilized into collective action. Smelser argues that the ‘behavior of leaders is
extremely important’ (perhaps alluding to Weber’ theories of leadership) but in more contemporary research,
this aspect is very closely related with RM studies. Organization has thus come to play an important role in
mobilization as well as the availability of resources. Leadership, likewise, may be part of ‘resources’, but we
shall see from empirical evaluations how they play into this example.
Social controls are mechanisms that act to ‘counter’ the development and spread of social movements. There
are practically two kinds: active and passive (reactive and non-reactive). Whereas the former seeks to prevent
the outbreak of social movements, primarily by alleviating strain, the latter seeks to inhibit spread through
various strategies and tactics. There are no specific theoretic guidelines as to how these tactics and strategies
are carried out in practice, as these tactics and strategies may take a wide variety of shapes and apply a host of
different tools and techniques to inhibit the social movement from developing further.
For a further outline of the components, I have provided a more detailed review in appendix 3.
2.6 Smelser’s theory of action
To supplement his structural theory, Smelser also provides a theory of action to describe movement
decision-making inside of the structural restrictions given in his theory. The theory of action from
Parsons and Shills (1951:53) provides four components for their general conceptual framework of
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
1) Behavior is oriented to the attainment of ends or goals or other anticipated states of affairs
2) It takes place in situations
3) It is normatively regulated
4) It involves expenditure of energy or effort in ‘motivation’ (which may be more or less
organized independently of its involvement in action)31.
Parson and Shill’s theory of action, simply explained, consists of these components, that must be
taken into consideration in order to explain action in practice. However, Parson and Shill’s theory of
action is based on the individual, whereas Smelser’s unit of analysis is social movements at the
aggregate level. In Smelser’s words: “Parson and Shill define action from the actor’s point of view.
It is possible, however, to apply the same definition to a system of action composed of the interaction
of two or more actors.” (Smelser 1962: 24). Hence, the four components are redefined for application
to a system of interaction. The four components are thus termed:
1) Values
2) Norms
3) Mobilization into organizational roles
4) Situational facilities
Paraphrasing Smelser’s definitions, 1) values are what guides action towards a goal, in other words,
what gives action an orientation –or purpose. 2) Norms are the ‘regulatory rules’ that govern how
these goals are to be achieved. 3) The mobilization into organizational roles considers considers how
motivated actors are mobilized into organizational roles – at the individual’s level (Parson and Shill’s
level) we ask how individuals are motivated, but at the organizational level we are, then, concerned
with how they are organized in society. 4) The available situational facilities considers that the actor
uses as means; these include knowledge of the environment, predictability of consequences of action,
tools, and skills.
Smelser (1962): 24
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Figure 3: components of action
2.5.1 Components of action in more detail.
These components of action, then, provides the superstructure for individual action in our societal
model. However, in order to nuance our theory, we must add further qualifications to the model. First,
the four components of action are ordered in structure that defines how influence is exerted
throughout the model. The given structure is depicted below in figure 3.
To describe this model in more detail, we should note that from top to bottom, action obtain
increasingly sophisticated ‘guidelines’. At the level of values, there are almost no concrete guidelines
for action only a goal or an ambition an idea perhaps of an underlying foundation for what is to be
‘achieved’, if action is undertaken based on this or these value. At the level of norms the direction of
action is formulated into more general terms on the basis of social and judicial rules (norms)
governing the conduct of action towards obtaining the desired values that are sought. In Smelser’s
terms: “the transition from values to norms restricts the possible situational applications of values as
such” (ibid.). At the level of mobilization into organizational roles, further specification is added to
the structural definitions of the space for action. The structures of roles and organizations, the nature
of their situational goals, their interrelations, and the sanctions that govern the interaction between
organizations. Lastly, at the level of situational facilities, we gain the most concrete characteristics of
the components of actions, the ‘at the hand’ facilities for actions: knowledge of the environment, of
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
consequences of action, and available resources to mobilize the action and for succeeding in the
Besides this first characterization; the levels of abstraction ranging from high to low (top down) the
second characteristic of the model concerns how changes move through the model. As we mentioned
above, influence is, per definition, exerted from the ‘top down’, although changes can also move
‘from the bottom up’. However, changes in values necessarily permeate downwards: a change in
values, the most abstract but also the most fundamental orientation for action, will necessarily have
to change the way of organization and the directions for actions throughout the model. However, a
change in the bottom of the model, will not necessarily command a change the other way around.
That is to say, if a change occurs in the mobilization (level 3), that will not require a change if values
to ’fix’ in the same way that a change in values demands changes in all the lower levels of components
for action.
Furthermore, we should mention that all action is directed on the basis of all the components, but
does not necessarily require changes in the components of action. This point must be observed to
avoid confusion when applying the model for analysis, its primary function. The model is further
subdivided into 7 more levels for each of the ‘basic’ components (see appendix 8 tables 1-5) to define
in more detail how each component is structured. When reading this table, the same principle as
before is in effect (the hierarchical progression) but it is now extended to also include ‘sub levels’ of
each component of action. Now when we read these, any reconfiguration of a component of action
(for instance norms level 5) will not only move ‘downwards’(levels 6 & 7) through the all levels
below in the same component but also to the right (to mobilization and situational facilities). When
moving to the right, all levels in the next column can be subject to reconfiguration- not only sublevels at the same degree of specificity.
2.5.2 Amendments to Smelser’s theoretical framework
While Smelser’s framework provides a well-elaborated theoretical framework for analyzing social
movements, some amendments must be made in this study to adequately keep his theory ‘up-to-date’
with contemporary questions into social movements. Here we will address the most important aspects
of the value-added theory that has been in need of refinement, replacement or which has been
excluded in this inquiry.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
First, Smelser’s inquiry deals with the field of collective behavior more specifically than ‘social
movements’ as such. While social movements and collective behavior, in Smelser’s analysis, is very
closely related, in this inquiry we are not going to try and distinguish between the two in the same
way that Smelser does, as this separation of the two aspects of inquiry would likely only lead to
confusion and does not principally concern the questions raised in this inquiry. Collective behavior
can be subdivided into at least five sub-categories, according to Smelser’s framework: the ‘panic’,
the ‘wish-fulfilment movement’, the ‘hostile outburst’, the’ norm-oriented movement, and the ‘valueoriented movement’. These five categories can then be classified in a hierarchy in which every ‘higher
level’ incorporates all the same elements of a ‘lower level’ with some component or determinant
added. Smelser’s aim in his work is to identify which combinations of components lead to which
types of collective behavior. The strongest antithesis with our inquiry from the conceptualization of
collective behavior, is that collective behavior is defined as ‘non-institutionalized action’ where
Smelser excludes a great deal of social movements on the grounds that their actions are ‘formalized’
in one way or another. While this distinction makes sense in the kind of inquiry that Smelser is
performing, that does not do justice to the research that we are performing here, regardless of its
explanatory ability in relation to conventional collective behavior research and theory.
Secondly, Smelser argues that generalized belief is often founded in a ‘less rational’ proposition
involving the relationships between abstract elements and concrete elements in the theoretical
framework i.e. how more abstract concepts relate to more concrete experiences (see appendix 8 for
an illustratios). The general belief, then, are founded in “startling images, freed from accessory
explanations” that are formed through ‘rumors, ideology and superstition’ and thus is ‘akin to
magical beliefs’. While this definition is not at all impossible (and Smelser provides several examples
from various religious and ideology-based instances of collective behavior), it does not suffice to
adequately describe our research area. In fact, it stands in diametrical opposition to the kinds of
movement that we are interested in and on which we aim to shed light. At the same time, it also draws
much too close connotations with the classical approaches formulations of irrationality on the part of
social movement participants.
Thirdly, movement types are also important to the discussion of social movements and for purposes
of this research we are not going to adopt Smelser’s classifications. The reasons are that this research
is not particularly interested in variation of movement types across different movements, although it
does make sense to try to describe the movement in terms of its goals, formation, spread, etc. however,
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
the a priori categories developed by Smelser would serve better for a different kind of study than for
ours. In addition, while Smelser is interested in various types of collective behavior this area is, again,
not the focal point of interest in this research. Therefore, a categorization focusing on collective
behavior rather than SMOs is not what we are looking for here.
Fourth, it is commonly understood that Smelser follows the ‘structural breakdown’ theory that,
succinctly put, argues systemic, or; structural breakdowns, precipitate the emergence of collective
behavior (Porta & Diana 2006: 7). The argument is that “the structural functionalist approach… saw
social movements as the side effect of over rapid social transformation… In a system made of
balanced subsystems, collective behavior reveals tensions which homeostatic rebalancing
mechanisms cannot absorb in the short term” (ibid.) While it is not always explicit in Smelser’s work
that a structural breakdown is required as a cause for collective behavior, it should be pointed out here
that we do not follow this assumption. Unless structural breakdown is interpreted as a necessary (to
the point of tautology) component of social movement formation i.e. that it is formulated so generally
as to be almost deprived of meaning, the notion does not appear necessary for an analysis of social
movements. Neither has the proposition been correct in assuming that a structural breakdown of the
social order is a necessary condition for the development of a social movement. Had this been the
case, it should have been demonstrated through empirical observations, but like Morris & Herring
(1984) observes, this claim of the classical approaches was generally refuted 40 years ago. However,
we do follow the theory of strain on the components of action as a major fact in explaining the
emergence of a generalized belief, but with the amendments made above (in point 2).
Fifth, the theory of behavior presented has received much criticism in later literature. It is an extension
of the 4-component model of action devised by Parson and Shills but with the theory repurposed for
application on the aggregate level. The issue here are particularly addressing the issues of structural
causal mechanism that leads to pre-defined types of collective behavior32. Likewise, we do not adopt
the Parsonian views of the self-equilibrating social system although the model of the force field
(presented in section 2.4.4) may inadvertently promote this idea (see also appendix 3). Rather than
viewing society as a self-equilibrating system, society is construed as a dynamic, developing entity
that has no real state of equilibrium nor state that can be determined as a state of equilibrium prior to
or following an analysis. Society is dynamic, developing and emergent, founded on the actions and
See for instance Richard Jung’s review of Smelser’s work:
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
interactions of the agents that constitute it. It is a ‘loose system of accommodation not a functionally
integrated system33’ (Morris & Herring 1984: 18), to argue that agents are struggling to reconstitute
or create a state of equilibrium would be out of line with the general theoretical foundations of this
Sixth, in adding to point five, we will also have to address the very structural approach adopted by
Smelser in his work and his attempt to erect a unified theory of social movements in a sociological
model. While this was Smelser’s ambition, that is not ours and not the intent of this research.
Therefore we will also have to reconfigure the application and understanding of Smelser’s structural
theory. For the purposes of this research, therefore, the structural model is used as a frame for
qualitative analysis rather than for structural analysis. This amendment, like most of the others made
here, are similar to the reconfigurations made by Crossley (2006: 33-45)
2.6 Literature review
The literature review is detailed in Appendix 5 due to a lack of space in the assignment.
2.7 Analytical process
In other sections, I have argued for the often-tumultuous progression of qualitative studies, however,
some shape must necessarily form the analytical process. The critical realism ontology has been the
primary contributor to the shape of the analytical structure. It has been devised around the principles
that Ingemann (2013:94) argues are characteristic for inquiries in the critical realism approach. These
are first to conduct a careful ‘reading’ of the situation: of all the ‘particulars of a situation’ that must
be collected through a careful compilation34 and, secondly, to ‘probe beneath their surface to discover
through intuition or understanding the hidden order that those particulars only hint at’ (Taylor & Van
Every 2011: 21)35. This analytical process is related to grounded theory, in that it emphasizes the
initial data sampling and seeks to create theory as logical (often-inductive) inference from
This definition is a paraphrase of Robert Park by Morris & Herring. A major dispute between the Park and Parsons
over the conceptualization of the ‘normal’ state of society. For a review of Parsons’ theories see Black (1961) and for
Park see Park, Burgess and McKenzie 1925.
’on-site’ observation and participation should also be emphasized here, though these methods have not been
applicable for the research. Secondarily, I have worked to develop an extensive time-line to cover all important events
throughout the mobilizations.
Ingemann terms this aspect as a ’rational abstraction’ (Ingemann 2013: 92).
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
observation. However, there are various differences. Grounded theory often gives more prominence
to inductive logic as an exclusive premise for theory creation, whereas this research design combines
existing theory with the on-going analysis36. Put a little more generically, Colin & Køppe (2003:287288) argues that grounded theory is an attempt to bring the social sciences closer to the natural
sciences by creating a methodological approach that (like positivism) emulates the natural sciences
in some ways. An important aspect here has been to move the conclusions closer to the empirical
observations and away from pre-existing theorizing37 (see also Glaser & Strauss 1967). While the
research here aims to establish a close connection between empirical observations and conclusions
and while it gives preference to empirical observation, the analytical process, however, still includes
existing theory. This is not to say that grounded theory is not a useful methodological approach, and
what this research does have in common with the approach is an attempt to build from empirical
observations at first and to, at least attempt, to provide a logical evaluative progress through empirical
observations to theory.
2.8 Limitations of research
The research conducted incorporates various aspects of SMO research, but it is equally important to
recognize the areas that the research cannot cover. The focus of the research are primarily with
institutional, organizational and political aspects of the social movement of Guatemala and the
methodological approach is fashioned around a ‘historical research’ approach, akin to Charles Tilly’s
social movement inquiries. In addition, the methodological approach is modeled around a case study,
which likely limits the scope for establishing general theory. The immediate limitations the research
presents are listed below, though this list provides only what is considered the most ‘prominent’
limitations of the research:
1) The research cannot account for personal motivations, participant motivation, state of mind,
individual interpretations, dynamics of interaction, and other aspects related to the
particularities of participants understandings and meanings.
2) It necessarily follows that the research cannot account for the connections between other
concepts and the individual connections with these beyond a narrow scope. ‘Larger’
Other differences that this research does not follow are; coding, constant comparison, and theoretical saturation. See
also Bryman (2012: 567-570).
I.e. not only from a priori theorizing but also from guiding by existing theory in general.
Thesis | 36
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
theoretical scopes therefore cannot be connected directly with individual relations with these
on any levels of individual engagement (emotional, psychological, cognitive, etc.).
3) The research is not geared towards a closer analysis of organizational and political behavior,
operation, etc. especially at the individual level. While the resource mobilization approach is
included in the analysis (and although it usually looks closer at organizational functioning),
the empirical grounding of the research presented here cannot account for meticulous
evaluation of organizational operations. Simply put, the units of analysis incorporated in the
research are ‘larger’ than the ‘finer gears’ of organizational and political operations.
4) The research is not aimed at generating general theories (nor invariant theories). Albeit this
has not been uncommon to the political process theoretical approach, Again, the case-study
design does not allow for such broad generalizations from a single case, though it may provide
insights for later testing at the general level of theory and provide in-depth analysis to support
or contradict existing empirical findings and theory.
5) The conclusions will not be able to answers questions of comparison very well, i.e. questions
of relations to other social movement ‘cases’, neither contemporary nor historical, although
historical cases can more readily be used for comparisons, reflection and as examples because
of the existing knowledge about those cases. However, this research will not constitute a
cross-sectional study, and therefore cannot make direct inferences based on a cross-sectional
or comparative analysis.
3. Methodology
3.1 Research design
My interest for these demonstrations have not been limited to a particular area of inquiry or a
particular scope narrowed paradigmatic restrictions of levels of importance a priori to research, but
Thesis | 37
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
rather, have been expanded by my own interest in the mobilization, organization, development and
achievements of the movements. In other words, the case was not chosen as a ‘fitting case study’ for
a particular kind of inquiry, but rather research became the ensuing conclusion of my engagement
with the movements.
Because of these circumstances, this research has been guided by motives to answer practical,
imminent questions in the contemporary context of the movements, rather than theoretical, abstracts
questions that may or may not be related to the contextual matters. The consequence is that the
research has been led by an explorative approach in which the social movements of Guatemala has
acted as a case study rather than a comparative study or as an element in a statistical study. As a case,
3.2 Strengths and weaknesses of the case study
With a case study, it is my aim to provide profound insight into a singular case because the research
considers merely a singular instance of a more general phenomenon; it allows for a deeper
engagement with the phenomena at hand (Bryman 2012: 66; Stake 1995). It makes it possible to
account for case-specific circumstances and contingencies that would be impossible in larger
statistical studies, and it allows for a more in-depth participation and engagement with the said
phenomenon. Furthermore, it makes it possible to come to an understanding of the particularities and
complexities of the case within important circumstances pertaining to the case. This, in turn,
strengthens the conclusions that can be made about the case, because it is not necessitated that these
conclusions can be generalized broadly. In other words, the research is modeled on an ideographic
approach, contrary to nomothetic approaches (Collin & Køppe 2003: 101; Brymann 2012: 69), which
also aligns with the abductive reasoning applied in the research.
3.2.1 Strengths
While social movement research has tried to gauge the phenomenon for many years, at least one thing
seems imminent in this area of study: the contextual circumstances of social movements are varying
and these variations in conjunction with structural factors have had significant influence in
determining movement outcomes. While research has assessed most social movement of a larger
scale, it has been evident that the amount of contextual factosr have been, perhaps, as varying (which
Thesis | 38
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
has been manifest in some peculiar observations as well38). If we are to understand these
contradictions not to be mutually exclusive, the implication becomes that the variation of context, in
turn, becomes the central determinant. This proposes the challenge of constructing a theory of the
dynamics of grander societal contextual influences and developments to compliment the research into
social movement studies. To explains the dynamics of this (or these) determinant’s influence(s) on
the building blocks of social movement theories (similar to a theory such as Marx’s on societal
development, but, hopefully, more specifically tuned towards social movement theory and with
greater explanatory power). While I will not attempt such an ambitious task in this research, my hope
is that the research conducted here, will be able to provide insight that can be used for further
theorizing, in other words, for establishing theory which provides answers to these central questions.
In addition, this is also the reason why this study focusses on a qualitative, analytical approach rather
than a thesis-testing, quantitative framework.
This is one reason why I believe a research design like this is justified, both because of its objectives
(see section 1.3.3), and because of the simple observation that drawing connections between social
movements is an intricate task due to the large degree of variation between social movements on
many different parameters. Indeed, merely coming up with a singular definition of ‘social movement’
has proven, so far, an insurmountable task, which should demonstrate the obvious complications of
a strictly comparative or statistical study (not to say that these are unwarranted, but merely to illustrate
some of the weaknesses of other research designs). Likewise, deciding which factors to account for
in social movement studies have been a complicated task for researchers because of the complexity
of the field and its broad area of research, encompassing several fields of study.
The nature of this inquiry makes it possible to gauge the existing knowledge in a case that, once again,
provides both unusual contextual circumstances and unusual structural characteristics. This makes it
possible to test and apply existing knowledge to a new different case in order to test the boundaries
of these theories application and extension as well as their interplays and dynamics in an unusual
situation. It also allows for careful observation and detailed analysis of the particular case, which may
provide cues and/or preliminary ideas of the intricate interplay between known structural influences
For instance the contradictions between the observations of Gamson and Piven & Cloward (see appendix 3.1 on
theoretical contestation). While the work of both is empirically substantiated, it is evident that the conclusions are
contradictory with Gamson arguing that movements rely heavily on organization and formal acceptance (amongst other
variables) for success, and Piven & Cloward who found that civil disobedience (contrary to organization, Piven &
Cloward argues) is the primary force for achieving movement goals.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
and unknown contextual specificities. And lastly, it will also be able to provide an scientific inquiry
into a very special case, that otherwise have not seen much attention in the west.
3.2.2 Weaknesses
Having addressed the arguments for utilizing a case study approach for this research, we will
entertain some of the critiques of such an approach to avoid providing a one-sided account of the
choice of research design, and in order to avoid giving the impression that all academics are as
positive towards case study designs as are Kuhn and Flyvbjerg.
On the negative side, this approach limits the reliability of the conclusions, exactly because they are
case-specific and it can be difficult to assess when, where, and how these results can be generalized
to other cases because of a lack of comparisons and generalizations across other cases. In a similar
fashion, this type of inquiry does not allow for control groups (as in controlled experiments, statistical
tests, or other research designs testing exact hypothetical statements), which again limits the certainty
with which the conclusions can be made. Third, a lack of a larger data set with a broader scope of
comparable data, it also becomes difficult to assess relative force of parameters because it is difficult
to gauge the effect of relative loading of different parameters against each other. While it is certainly
possibly to make assessments, it is difficult to provide proof of these based on a case study without
empirical evidence to support these. Fourth, qualitative studies are often times exposed to the
‘subjective bias’ critique which is founded in the interpretative methodology. Simply put, the
subjective bias argues that interpretation easily opens up for misestimating, ‘cultural or cognitive bias
of selective interpretation’ (Kahan et al. 2007), or other forms of selective biases that may influence
the results and their validity. This is an important an unavoidable critique, which any research of a
qualitative nature must attempt to resolve in its methodological and analytical approach.
Yin (1984) has sorted the critiques of qualitative case studies in three major groups: 1) case studies
are often accused of a lack of rigor: ‘too many times, the case study investigator has been sloppy. And
has allowed equivocal evidence or biased views to influence the direction of the findings and the
conclusions’ (Yin 1984:21). 2) Case studies are often criticized for their lack of reliability for raising
generalizations, prompting the question ‘how can you make generalizations from such a small sample
of data? 3) case studies are often criticized for being too long and creating a far too long, difficult to
Thesis | 40
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
conduct and producing an vast amount of documentation (see also Zainal 2007: 5; Schell 1992;
Runyan 1982; Campbell & Stanley 1966: 6-7)
Perhaps Campbell & Stanley who subordinated the case study methodology to ‘real scientific’
inquiries made, perhaps, the most infamous contribution to the critique of the case study. In their
terms; “such studies have such a total absence of control as to be of almost no scientific value… it
seems well-nigh unethical at the present time to allow, as theses or dissertations in education, case
studies of this nature (Campbell & Stanley 1966: 6-7). This critique is largely the same as has been
stated above but goes to illustrate some of the opposition to case studies and their objections.
3.2.3 Case selection
While the choice of research design type is important in relation to the kind of research and what kind
of result ones is looking for, the choice of case is equally important in relation to what kind of data
one is looking at that is. It concerns what aspects are more interesting to the study rather than others,
as well as in order to compare and relate the observations made in this case to other cases, enabling
comparisons and generalizations from the singular case if these are possible. While there are
numerous potential cases that could be eligible to research and would be much closer to Denmark
(for instance in DK: the teacher’s demonstrations of 201339 against the educational reform, or
contemporary European marches against the TTIP, this case was chosen for several reasons. The first
reason is its setting that is less closely researched by European and American scholars (as far as I can
tell from the literature). That is not to say Latin America has not been researched, but merely to say
that scholars from the EU and the US (Oliver et. al. 2003: 234) have less researched it. Scholars of
the field has, traditionally, been more concerned with western societies and contended issues here,
than with those of other societies. Secondly, Latin America is a part of the world that has had severe
difficulties in escaping the grasps of imperialism and establishing functioning, independent societies,
not least because imperialist powers has done much to prevent Latin America in doing so. While
Latin America should have been a prosperous and rich hemisphere, based on its natural resources,
arable lands and biodiversity, those prospects have remained largely unfulfilled. Today, Latin
America faces widespread issues of violence, corruption, poverty, indigence, mal-nutrition,
discrimination, inequality (most unequal region in the world), lack of education, healthcare and other
Thesis | 41
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
public services, impunity, marginalization, insecurity, and more40. Thirdly, while many of the Latin
American countries have made progress, these issues are still prevalent in most economies, and
Guatemala is no exception. The country has been facing severe complications, amongst other an
overthrow of the country’s first democratic uprising (called the ‘Guatemalan spring’ from 1944 to
1954) and an ensuing 36-year internal conflict incorporating genocide and both supported by the US
according to the UN truth commission and released internal documents. The repercussions of these
events have had devastating effects on the society in several ways. Perhaps most importantly for this
case, widespread political corruption has been a continuous political practice as has political impunity
for the same. Fourth, this case is interesting because it exemplifies a case of solidarity and unity across
social boundaries. While no country’s population is demographically uniform or shares identical
beliefs, goals, ambitions, etc., Guatemala has, perhaps, an unusually diverse composition. Not least
because of the internal conflict that spurred animosities between ‘pro-guerillas’ and ‘pro-militaries’,
especially among indigenous groups that were often used as ‘proxy-militaries’ in the army’s fight
against the rebels, but also because of longer historical differences between the Mayan descendants
and their various groupings. Those aside, differences between ‘Mayans’ and ‘non-Mayans’ are
equally carving up societal divisions, along with economic discrimination in a highly unequal country
and various other partitioning factors. The movement’s ability to overcome these differences is a
highly important piece in the puzzle of mobilization for which this case is also of particular interest.
Fifth, that the demonstrations have been peaceful is also of great significance. While Guatemala is a
country that has suffered much from violence, aggression, excessive militarization, and availability
of firearms, the demonstrations have been held in accordance with law and order, has not incorporated
civil disobedience, violence, damaged property or otherwise destructive or aggressive behavior. In a
country facing a wide variety of difficulties on other issues (see above), overcoming these on a
massive scale in a completely peaceful mobilization, incorporating people from all aspects of society
(groups, genders, classes, ethnicities, etc.) is an astounding accomplishment. Sixth, while it is easy to
say that there is much room to cover still, the demonstrations have been successful in achieving
several of their stated goals, amongst others he resignation of the country’s former president Otto
Perez Molina and his vice-president Roxanna Baldetti, which is not in a small accomplishment. The
success of the mobilization in accomplishing various attested objectives may also provide some
empirical evidence for factors influencing the relative success of social movements. Seventh, for the
See CEPAL Panorama 2014/2015 for in-depth information on the macro perspectives of LA (listed in bibliography
under publications).
Thesis | 42
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
same reasons the lessons from this social movement may prove useful, not only to scholars, but also
to participants trying to organize and mobilize social movements for other or similar causes.
3.3 Data sampling
The methods and techniques applied in conducting the research for this assignment are not limited to
a special field such as discourse analysis or media analyses. Rather, the case study incorporates
various methods of data collection and analysis, as the case aims to establish an ‘expert evaluation’
and rendition of a case-specific subject. Data compilation, in this study, follows a criterion sampling
method i.e. to ‘sample all units that meet a particular criterion’ (Bryman 2012:419). The criterions
for our sampling consider, generally speaking, the relations of the units to the social movement itself,
the movement’s formation, organization, resources, and leadership, the political environment and its
historical trajectories, contemporary societal events and related events (such as the related
demonstrations for water), demonstrations information, corruption, and other, similar, criterions. The
criterion sampling method is part of the purposive sampling approach, which is common for
qualitative research. The fundamental characteristic of purposive sampling methods is that the
sampling ‘conducted with reference to the goals of the research. So that the units of analysis are
selected in terms of criteria that will allow the research questions to be answered’ (ibid. p. 418).
Data has subsequently been compiled and arranged systematically in a historic timeline to provide a
basis for the analysis (see appendix 9). This schema covers all related events that have been found to
be of importance to the movement, and also events which relevance are questionable in order to
ensure in-depth coverage, also in cases of doubt. Most of the assessment of the case has relied on
internet searching because this has proven the most efficient and intelligible way to collect data on
the events, with data sources from Guatemala, being relatively scarcely available from DK. The data
has been extensively cross-referenced in order to ensure their accuracy and coverage. If possible, both
primary and secondary data has been obtained, though this has not only been possible in few cases to
a truly satisfactory extent. When searching the internet, especially key word and event-specific
searches are useful for exploring particular events. Likewise, it has been useful to ‘lean’ on
information provided from interest organizations and a broad range of information outlets to obtain
information from a broad range of perspectives.
Thesis | 43
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
3.4 Validity and reliability of data
The empirical data for the report is composed of several kinds of data; however, they are all treated
as qualitative empirical data. Through the research, I have spoken with many people involved with
the social movements of Guatemala, collected information ranging from newspaper articles, official
publications, scientific papers, reports, and other kinds of textual accounts, to obtain information and
insight into the matters concerning the social movements. All data is evaluated on the basis of its
validity and reliability in accordance with standard practices of source evaluation (See Baumann
2012: 543-589). Furthermore, all included data-sources are non-reactive meaning that they have not
been created particularly for purposes of social research (ibid. p. 543). The essential aspect of the
evaluation is to determine whether the sources provide data in a factual way and whether they
represent the events and circumstances in adequately and ‘objectively’41. At all times, crosschecking
is applied to mitigate the chance of partial views and accounts and to ensure a comprehensive account
of events. If the sources are not primary sources, I have sought to obtain primary sources rather than
secondary to compare with first-hand accounts of events. Primary sources are regarded over
secondary sources in terms of their accuracy and reliability; however, primary sources are not exempt
from biases and cannot be viewed as less prone to error either. In fact, in many cases first-hand
observations may need later corrections in order to compensate for various bias42. Furthermore, I have
sought to diversify the range of data in order to mitigate risk of partisan views, flawed or missing
accounts, and to improve the overall validity of the accounts
3.5 Research process
This chapter is elaborated in detail in Appendix 7.
This aspect concerns: 1) authenticity 2) credibility 3) representativeness and 4) meaning
However, some distinctions and nuances should be added to this argument. With regards to impressions, experience,
perception, etc. of events, primary sources (first-hand observations) are far superior but with regards to ‘factual
descriptions’ primary accounts may be subject to later corrections because impressions may differ from what has
actually taken place. Like an account of Houdini during a great magic show: while an observer may experience and
report the whole of the scenery and the events as ‘pure magic’, later examinations may reveal that the great show was
actually devised through various equipment, trap doors, effects, and so on.
Thesis | 44
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
4. Analysis
We will follow Smelser’s analytical structure evaluated and ‘updated’ in the theoretical section of
this paper. The aim is to follow a linear progress through his six components (conduciveness, strain,
general belief, precipitating factors, mobilization, and social control), However, we will have to do
some iteration back and forth between various elements. In the progress through the analysis, we will
also consider findings from other studies and try to relate these to our own observations and, in
particular, try to relate and integrate RM and PPT into the overall analytical framework and analsyis.
4.1 Structural conduciveness
4.1.1 Social movements and mobilizations in recent years
Of the few statistic on demonstrations in GT I have been able to locate, one was published in 2012
by El Periodico (newspaper), which made a statistics of the year’s demonstrations noting that the
country had had a total of 707 demonstrations that year, with most being held in the capital (339 from
January to August). Almost all of the demonstrations had been peaceful (62%), with only few
involving property damage or other disruptive tactics, but none being violent uprisings like the
resistance during the internal conflict. Of the remaining 38% are also included demonstrations that
are non-violent but disruptive (such as road blockades 20.4% and marches 7.9%)43. On an overall
basis, we see that the tendency towards peaceful demonstrations has changed and that with repression
diminishing, civil resistance has changed towards demonstrations and peaceful means rather than
violence. What appears as a consistent theme is that escalations have followed when repression has
increased44 (see also appendix 11 for some elaboration on these points).
Peaceful demonstration, in contrast, appear quite frequent. Ayassa provides some mapping of
mobilizations in relation to various conflicts in the country. The data available covers until 2014,
though the overall quality is questionable, the trends appear relatively clear. The amount of protests
and demonstration are high, with many involving various kinds of inconformity and disruptive tactics
The numbers from El periodico are the newest available statistics I have bene able to find on the subject. INE (national
statistical institute of Guatemala) does not publish numbers on demonstrations in GT.
Ulrick Beck provides some interesting reflections on the distinctions between power and violence as well (Beck
2006) that are relevant when thinking about power.
Thesis | 45
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
such as road blockages. Disruptive tactics have usually been deployed by ‘single-group’
mobilizations (i.e. rural groups, indigenous groups, agricultural groups)45.
This leads us to a consideration of one of the main thesis of PPT theory, outlined by Eisinger (1973)46
and Tilly (1978); that social movements can occur only if state repression is existing but not ‘too
harsh’. In the case of GT, political violent repression has decreased in recent years, but this is not to
say that violence has disappeared in the post-conflict years though while the scale of political violence
and corruption has varied after the peace accords were signed in 1996, it seems that both have
decreased in recent years. Whereas high-profile killings have been possible even after the signings of
the peace accords, such assassinations appears to have diminished somewhat47. Political violence
remains an issue, especially in relation to indigenous and civil rights, union leaders, and some other
areas such as extortion of political contenders, but repression of the population seems to have
decreased in relative terms. In general, it seems that a ‘vacuum’ has opened with regards to political
suppression of the population. In former times, direct assassination or targeting was effectuated, and
clandestine operations targeted the population more directly. However, under the current power
structures, it seems that the corrupt organizations (commonly referred to as ‘CIACs’) have changed
their strategies. Insight crime, reporting on current progress in the combat against government
corruption, identifies a similar transition. In their words, the corrupt organizations changed their shape
from that of a ‘dragon into a hydra’, which also indicates a change in the way the clandestine powers
operates48. In the past, the organized crime rings were shaped around military, hierarchical structures,
but contemporarily they start to look more ‘business-like’: they are ‘centered around business
pragmatism, not an ideology’49. Today the CIACS does not operated from ideology or central controls
as they used to, which also means that their powers are only as strong as their consensus. It seems
that this change has been part of ‘lifting’ the direct ‘political’ pressure and suppression of the public.
Theoretically speaking, this tells us that social movements can be expected to occur, since repression
has decreased to a level that allows for movements to develop an express underlying grievances,
laying claims on the state to help solve these issues. This seems to be true, as the numbers from El
See also appendix 11 for elaboration on this theoretical point
Recent high-profile cases are generally considered as Myrna Mack (1990), Jorge Nicolle (1993) Bishop
Gerardi(1998), the murdering of three Salvadorian politicians (2007), Oscar Caal (2012) as the more recent cases of
political assassinations. In former years, particularly the 80ies, political assassinations were carried out on a regular
basis according to Amnesty International reporting.
This argument is further developed under social controls as well
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
periodico and Ayssa show clearly that mobilizations are neither uncommon nor infrequent. However,
protest under sustained high levels of repression appears to take the shape of violent countermovements (as during the internal conflict between 1960 and 1996). In other words, our observations
here support the thesis of Eisinger and Tilly, though with the amendment that violent repression
appears to elicit a violent counter-movement while, correctly, suppressing ordinary movement
4.1.2 Political alliances and movement constituency
‘Political alliances’ is an aspect that has been emphasized by PPT scholars (McAdam 1996). We
noted before that demonstrations have not been uncommon in GT in recent years but an important
change noted in relation to the demonstrations of 2015 is the alliances that were formed across various
sectors of society that have traditionally been divided. For the first time, even the middle and uppermiddle classes of GT society joined in the demonstrations along with peasants and indigenous,
students, entrepreneurs, and even large-scale corporations, culminating in the support of the very
powerful employers-union, CACIF, which has been seen by various analysts as a decisive variable
for the success of the social movement. GT society has traditionally been strongly divided between
various groups and sectors: indigenous and ladinos, peasants and urban population, rich and poor,
and even between various fractions of the indigenous populations, the civil conflict drew sharp
associational segregations.
One aspect that seems imperative in relation to structural conduciveness is that the consolidation
between various societal groups also called for peaceful means of protesting. Neither side could
afford losing the fragile alliance50
between societal groups that, historically, have been sharply
divided, if the ultimate goal was to be accomplished (see illustration of divisions below). Neither did
either party want to succumb to internal conflicts, which could easily erect from indiscriminate use
of disruptive tactics, when both sides were, in this case, struggling to meet the same end. Failure to
observe this mutual but tacit understanding could have disastrous consequences and might ultimately
lead to the victory of the same forces that the public sphere was fighting against. Tellingly, political
I want to stress that this alliance was, although it appeared strong, not necessarily so. The movement was made up of
societal groups that have had numerous clashes and strongly diverging interests and their unity, while it proved strong
enough, have likely been strained by both historical and contemporary disagreements.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
entities did not fail to try and exploit this vital, but fragile, alliance, by attempting to incite discord
between the vested groups. Some reports of violent or disruptive clashes emerged during the conflicts,
but these were generally attributed to corrupt obscure powers paying off poor peasants or unemployed
to do illegal road blockades. The most important occasion happened on September 1st when the CC
was voting on the revoking the immunity of President Molina52, when a gathering of ‘pro-government
protestors’ tried to block the entrance of the deputies to congress, to prevent them from voting.
Another example is illustrated in attempts to ‘defame’ protestors 53 in various ways. In political
discourse, the principle of divide and conquer’ has also been a long-standing tactic to keep the public
from uniting against the political and elite classes. Otto Pérez Molina exemplified this in a speech
shortly before his renunciation on August 2354
55 56
where he called on ‘the ‘deep’ Guatemala’ to
support him against the insurgents in the capitol (addressing the rural population for their support).
In this case, however, the strategy did not help Molina who was readily recognized by the rural
populations as the miscreant, and he failed to incite enmity between the rural and urban populations.
In other speeches, he has called the rural and indigenous activists and leaders ‘terrorists’ 57 (likewise
has other extreme right-wing groups58, intent on criminalizing HR advocates and indigenous groups)
– a traditional rhetoric in GT right-wing discourse aimed at the same ultimate ends. A last recurrent
example is the accusations against the CICIG as an international conspiracy against the Guatemalan
state which Molina59, and lately Baldetti60, has sought to utilize to spur doubt about both the MP and
the international commission.
In spite of the attempts to incite enmity, the protesting groups remained consolidated in the call for
the renunciations of Molina and Baldetti, and remained in solidarity, not attributing callous ridicule
or assigning blame to one another. However, for us the importance remains with the structural
conduciveness to foster peaceful demonstrations and means. The unification across various social
strata called on both sides not to violate this implicit code of conduct where violence and disruption
Here specifically concerning the CODECA – Committee for Campesino Development, a labor organization that
works in the rural districts of Guatemala and has been leading in the fight against privatization of electricity in the
Thesis | 48
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
would risk more than it could possibly gain. Theoretically, SMO literature has debated whether
disruptive measures are a viable strategy for social movements to reach asserted goals with both
support and opposition to the hypothesis (Morris & Herring 1984). In this case, we may say with
considerable confidence that peacefulness have been a cornerstone in concerting the demonstrations.
Lastly, the unification of forces across various societal groupings also concerns another important
aspect. The middle- and upper middle class had rarely been involved in social mobilizations prior to
2015, and even less alongside members of the rural, indigenous, and poor populations (this may be a
first). The implication here being, that if we are to conceptualize a political opportunity, the
unification of social groupings, across the dividing axes of a country, whether those dividing axes
may be, appears as a strong indicator of a political opportunity for success. This observation supports
the general agreement in PPT theory, that the stability and extent of political alliances are important
indicators for success. The success of GT’s movement hinges strongly on this vital factor of
unification across traditional dividing lines. In our case, the divisions between rich/poor, rural/urban,
and ‘capitalist’ / ‘communist’, have formed the axes of separation, though in other cases (i.e. other
countries or places in time) separations may be formed based on other axes.
Simple illustration of traditional divisions of GT society
Indigenous, human rights defenders,
Capitalists / capitalism
Socialists / socialism
Figure 4: traditional divisions of GT society
4.1.3 Overcoming a culture of silence
Cultural factors also play an important role in the conducive structures channeling the movement
towards peaceful means of protest. In several analyses, the internal conflict of 1960-1996 has played
an important role in terms of structural conduciveness. Some analysts have pointed out that a ‘culture
Thesis | 49
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
of silence’61 62 63 64 65 has persisted ever since the signing of the peace accords in 1996 and that the
demonstrations in 2015 marked a turning point of this cultural repressiveness, which had, according
to some, kept Guatemalans ‘silent’, ‘dormant’ or otherwise passive in the face of severe societal
issues. This cultural silence can be invoked as a consequence both of fear of relapse into the internal
conflict which, by most of society, was a dreaded time-period of ruthlessness, insecurity and violence,
or as a fear of either state violence or breakouts of civil violence akin to the guerillas of the civil war.
For many Guatemalans that lived through the conflict, being pinched between the forces of guerillas
and the militaries was a fearful scenario that no one wished to return to. This fear itself may easily
have been enough to silence many voices of dissent among all sectors of society, and especially
among those who already fear for their safety (usually the ones who cannot afford private protection66
though the region in general is marked my extensive public insecurity67 68). Bearing in mind the high
levels of public insecurity and violence (the ‘northern triangle69’ being the one of the most violent
areas in the world70), the influence of cultural parameters have an important bearing on the way the
social movement developed and which strategies it pursued. While this cultural variable is not
universal, it remains an important factor that has had a limiting effect on the availability of strategies
for the social movement. In other cases, similar variables may take different forms for which we
cannot account here, but the influence of a cultural variable is indisputable.
In stating that this is a limiting factor, again, we revert to the factors that influence the availability, or
usefulness, of various strategies and here in particular disruptive or non-violent means. Previously it
had also been a limiting factor even to the possibility of a social movement on the scale of 2015.
While corruption (also at the presidential level) is not a new thing in Guatemala, none of the previous
See also Gabriel Wer, one of the ‘initiators’ of the social movement. He presents the same argument and points out
that the population (in his words, generally,) have been dormant since the internal conflict
The culture of silence term is likely related to the report from the UN truth commission entitled ‘memory of silence’
LA is the most ’insecure’ region in the world and Guatemala bears extensive traits of public insecurity. Guards armed
with shotguns and rifles are hired as private security forces at gas stations, super markets, malls, etc. and even as
permanently stationed guards at the upper classes’ condominios; walled-in housing complexes, with barbed wire fences,
check-posts, guards, etc.
Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras
Thesis | 50
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
presidents were condemned to the extent that Molina and Baldetti were. No prior president was forced
to resign due to public pressure, in spite of alleged involvement in acts of corruption, fraud, or other
illegal activities (see in particular the case of Alfonso Portillo). Therefore, to many people, the
demonstrations of 2015 marked also an end to the passivity of the public (in broad terms), and an
overcoming of the ‘repressiveness’ of the culture of silence71. The culture of silence which was the
outcome of violent repression and intimidation established during the internal conflict years and
which persisted long beyond. At first directed through the military but later was assumed by organized
criminal networks and combinations of the two (referred to as ‘CIACS’, see timeline notions for
further elaboration). Three of the most influential factors for overcoming these obstacles to
mobilization were: 1) May 16th, 20015: the CC calling for the protection of demonstrators, protection
of their rights to assemble peacefully and to for the PNC to protect the citizens of Guatemala and
uphold law and justice. 2) An overcoming of historical enmity between the societal groupings of
society around the axes explained above and 3) the decision of the military to ‘stay out of the
conflicts72’ Whereas the military has been active in various other instances of social mobilizations
and confrontations, with regards to the mobilizations of 2105, the military institutions remained
‘outside’ of the struggle.
To prevent negative impacts of the ‘culture of silence’, the adaption of peaceful means by the social
movement was critical in ensuring that the military would stay out of the events. The military had
already been utilized by President Molina in areas that were criticized by various humanitarian
organizations (areas usually covered by the police such as patrols, crime investigation, and crime
combating). Thus for the movement, it was critical avoid keep military both to ensure security and
confidence but also encouragement for potential participants (many fearing dire consequences of any
military involvement at all). For many, the fear of the militaries alone was, for a long time, enough
to inhibit participation in the demonstrations. Especially for those who lived through the internal
conflicts, the fear of violent confrontations and repressive means was imminent. Had the
demonstrators turned to disruptive means, the military would most probably have been inserted to
‘control the situation’ with unpredictable consequences.
A notable aspect of the silence concerns the history of the military oppression of the rural populations during the
internal conflict. It is a historical ‘burden’ that has never quite been overcome by the country, and to which the ‘upper
classes’ for a long time maintained silence or avoidance instead of confrontation and never demanded justice for the
victims of the brutal repression.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
4.1.4 Strengthening the judicial system
Lastly, we must also consider structural conduciveness in relation to a public ‘faith’ in the institutional
systems of justice. In Smelser’s terms, this considers particularly the “possibility of demanding
[normative] changes73” Smelser (1962: 278).
The judicial system had recently undergone a
significant developments through the term of Claudia Paz y Paz and the recent election of Ivan
Velasquéz in the CIICG. Paz y Paz was, by the beginning of the demonstrations, still leading the MP
as general attorney. Though she was dismissed shortly after (May 2015), her term had significantly
changed the efficiency of the judicial system. Paz y Paz’s defiance to subject herself to pressure from
corrupt politics and criminal networks significantly decreased impunity among the political and
business elites as well as amongst the criminal leaders. In just three years she had ‘imprisoned entire
Mara Salvatrucha or Brrio 18 gang cells, military members accused of war crimes, and 100 members
of the zetas’74. On top of this, she had also pursued high-level political cases with the most important
being the case against former military dictator, Rios Montt,75 76 which she succeeded in bringing to
court and concluding the case (though it overturned by the CC shortly after). This change in the
judicial system is important, because without it, little belief could have been amassed in the minds of
the public about their venture in the social movement. Impeaching the president would have been
virtually impossible (like in the case of Portillo, as stated by the prosecutor Fransisco Mendizabal
‘who could investigate the president?’77) in the conditions faced in previous years. We may ask
ourselves; ‘how would the situation have looked, had the same corrupt forces been in place, as
governed much of GT’s judicial system in former years?’ the prospects of success would have been
significantly dimmer, and the ‘belief in success’ would, likewise, have diminished. Secondarily, this
might have influenced the social movement further towards more radical means of resistance (as we
discussed above). The belief that formal organizational structures are capable of solving the societal
issues faced, are of no little importance when we hold up our case with other cases of social
movements. Indeed, turning to these organizations to ‘deliver justice’ for the people illustrates this
Smelser, in this chapter, addresses normative changes, which we will find is an integral aspect of the GT movement,
and for which the possibility alone of laying claims to normative changes is a necessity, in theory, to the development
of a social movement. Though we may challenge this claim on a broader basis, for this case the consideration remains
an important theoretical point in evaluating the structural conduciveness of the situation.
Thesis | 52
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
point in question very well, a strategy that is only possible, as long as those institutions are believed
to be both capable and ‘willing’78 to deliver on the issues pursued by the social movement.
Besides the changes to the judicial system effectuated under Paz y Paz, the CICIG had also shown
itself an important extension of combatting crime in GT79. With Iván Velásquez elected head of the
organization in August 2013, after which he spend the first two years targeting five specific areas of
crime: contraband, administrative corruption, illegal campaign financing, judicial corruption and drug
trafficking/ money laundering. Through the first years, considerable blows were given to each of
these areas in conjunction with the MP. Velásquez maintained that the objective was to dismantle the
extensive ‘CIACS’ (which he went on to term RPEIs), by addressing the ways in which they operated
and maintained their grasps on economic and political power in the country. The cases brought
forwards in this period (August 2013 to April 2015) includes an extortion ring allegedly led by the
notorious ex-captain of the army Byron Lima, and the arrest of Haroldo Mendoza who was reputed
for being one of the major drug traffickers of the country. His charges included ‘running a private
army’ the eastern parts of the country, and being responsible for multiple homicides, disappearances,
land theft, and other crimes. Besides, a major study was also dedicated to investigating illicit
campaign funding in GT, which startlingly revealed the influence of corrupt funding in the country’s
political arena. At the same time. Investigations into several judges, congress members and state
officials of the judicial system (i.e. prosecutors). Thus, the role of the CICIG in fortifying the judicial
system likewise contributed to an improved perception of the real possibility of exerting claims on
the state.
4.2 Structural Strain
From the onset, it makes sense to assume that various causes of strain were involved as determinants
of the social mobilizations. Indeed, assuming that a multiplicity of ‘strains’ existed at a single point
in time, and that these strains permeated and reached almost all areas of society, may be an important
piece in explaining the spread and scale of the social mobilizations, their broad appeal and support
throughout 2015. In Smelser’s general framework, first we assume that strain always appears at the
Willing is not necessarily the best terminology, but in lack of a better expression I will use it. The distinction, then,
should be clear: between capability and willingness on behalf of institutional power to deliver moral and ethical verdicts
and judgements. We will also return to this point later under our analysis of political opportunities.
- This report from Crisis group provides the background for the ensuing evaluation.
Thesis | 53
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
operational levels of the components of action (see models in appendix 8). The levels in question are
5 to 7 amongst all four components of action (values, norms, mobilization into organization, and
situational facilities). Although we will not go through all of the kinds of, it should be readily
recognizable, that strain on all four components of action have been in play. In accordance with our
theoretical framework, whenever higher ‘levels of strain are invoked’ we should expect the effect to
‘trickle down’. As we shall see, the identified strain reaches into the level of values (the highest level)
and we should therefore expect to find strain at both the levels of norms, mobilization into social
organization, and on situational facilities.
4.2.1 Strain and situational facilities
Strain in relation to situational facilities is considered as “a condition of ambiguity as to the adequacy
of means for a given goal.” Ambiguity, to some extent, is inevitable, but minimizing uncertainty is
the primary task in the coordination of action in order to achieve a desired outcome or goal. By
minimizing uncertainties and risks, the likelihood for success is improved. In a concrete example, for
a doctor, in order to achieve a goal of saving people, situational facilities are greatly improved through
the allocation of medical equipment to the hospital where she is working, if sanitation standards are
good, if medicine is available and technical equipment, etc. In this regard, we identify how strain on
situational facilities mounts under a corrupt political system coupled with a liberal market policy
usually favoring self-regulation80. While the GDP has improved in recent years, poverty and
indigence has, at best, decrease in relative numbers and more than half the country still lives in
poverty. Almost all of the state functions; the educational system, health care system, police, etc., are
suffering from lack of funding, resources, personnel, and equipment. A telling example is the
recurrent crisis in the hospital sector81 that continues into 2016. The health sector is often directly
dependent on donations82 83 or aid in order to keep up with demand84. Demonstrations of teachers and
doctors are not uncommon either and, albeit they did not play a major role in the 2015 demonstrations,
they are telling of the institutional situations in the country and the general expressions of discontent
which was canalized into a more general movement in 2015. In other social events, 2012 through
See Polanyi 1945 on self-regulating market systems.
The ‘theme’ recurs more or less on a yearly basis.
At major hospitals in Guatemala City the queues of citizens hoping to see a doctor often extents several blocks
outside of the hospital, images are readily available on Google for the outside observer.
Thesis | 54
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
2015 saw unusually severe periods of draught, which threatened the livelihood of more than a million
poor farmers and rural citizens85. To alleviate the suffering, Molina’s government was calling on
international aid to help save lives and livelihoods of the people harmed by the severe drought.
Several issues are present in the situation, with the dependency on monoculture farming, low-levels
of food security, years of political neglect of the development of agriculture, lack of water access,
corporate exploitation of existing water supplies86, and others exacerbating the consequences of the
draught. Strain occurs as a natural consequence of ambiguity, which escalates through these threats
to survival. In relation to the components of action, the situational facilities are conflicted strongly by
the ambiguity of the situation caused by the lack of even basic means for survival (such as water and
food) and dependency on aid supplies. This should provide an illustration of one of the many
situations in which strain occurs amongst the population of GT in relation to situational facilities.
Very similar findings are reached if we look into other aspects of life in the country, such as health
care, social security, poverty, education, financial security, etc. Although we have not stated the
specific levels throughout the analysis, the strain analyzed here considers levels 5-7 of situational
facilities, though we have not attributed specific distinctions.
From this, relatively short outline, it should be evident how the lack of adequate situational facilities
exacerbate ambiguity about the available means to meet even the most basic and simple goals, and
how strain will be experienced concrete level through the uncertainty developing from such a
situation. In theoretical terms it can be discussed whether an evaluation of strain in this way can be
conducted on an objective basis, or whether strain on situational facilities have to be held in relation
to cultural influences. Smelser does so, and argues that cultural influences are important in mitigating
or exacerbating strain from a given situation. In one example of norms he uses the Indian cast system
to provide an example of how a cultural value system maintains a system of norms that in other
cultures would be seen as highly repressive (Smelser 1962: 51). He thus argues that the Indian societal
system, for this reason, does not experience strain to the same extent or in the same way, as a similar
a norm system would do in a different society.
For this reason, we cannot objectively situate strain merely because of a lack of hospital equipment
and medicine (with point of departure in social health-care), but we must equally consider the
Exploitation and the deterioration of water supplies became a large topic in 2016 politics with the ‘water is life’
protests of April 2016.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
expectations and understandings that underpin the population’s stance towards these public
institutions. The transition towards what we often times regards as a ‘modern society’ with a
centralized state apparatus that is supposed to administrate and serve public needs and issues, helps
us relate these understandings to the emergence of strain from lacks of situational facilities. Other
forms of societies may not have experienced strain arising from such an issue, because the state has
not come to be regarded as the provider of social services such as health care. Likewise, the population
would not have been expected to help fund such a system through their taxes, and the dispute would
likely have been avoided, though we might instead have had other intricacies of how to serve general
needs of public health. The same is true across other issues of state-assumed responsibilities that are
maintained through public taxes. Even in a case like GT where public tax recollections are minimal87,
the assumption that these services are supposed to be provided for by the state, is enough to invoke a
general outcry against the mishandling of the state’s responsibilities. This should also be held up with
the general difficulties for the majority of the population to create any viable alternatives, and the fact
that remuneration is, even before taxes, boarding poverty if not within this spectrum for
approximately half of the population88. As in other cases, ‘framing’, as it is sometimes referred to, or
other formulations of underlying assumptions or ideas become essential in formulating the emergence
of strain.
In our case, we may not be able to say that there exist an absolute consensus or underlying belief as
we have defined Guatemala as a country in transition towards a ‘modern’ configuration of the stateled society. This mean that if we look in detail, many converging and diverging views may be
discovered on this point, but as a general point, and in relation to our general conceptual framework
outlined in Appendix 10, that the state has become a ‘reality’. Furthermore, its commitment to values
of democracy, equal representation, fairness, the public good, etc. necessitates a public relation to
these espoused values of the state and prompts the public to assess the functioning of the state in
relation to these commitments. With these considerations in mind, we can reassess our evaluation of
strain (example of public health-care) and consider how the state is being held responsible to its own
commitments, and how strain develops as a response to these failures, which generates uncertainty.
Guatemala has one of the lowest tax to GDP ratios in the world
latest number from ECLAC’s flagship: ‘Social Panorama of Latin America 2014’ (with most recent umbers from
2012, measuring poverty at rate at 54%).
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
First because the state fails to deliver on its commitment to alleviate public issues, and secondly
because there are no alternative institutions to take up where the state fails to provide.
4.2.2 Strain on mobilization into organizational roles
Strain on mobilization derives from various sources but is characterized as ‘a disjunction between
responsible performance in a given organizational role and the rewards that accrue hereby’ (Smelser
1962: 54). Societal changes that negatively affect the rewards for responsible performance, likewise
increases strain on this component for action. Smelser states that the most obvious kinds of strain in
relation to mobilization into organizational roles; “results when memberships (and rewards) are
severed all together, as in unemployment, disenfranchisement, expulsion, or excommunication.” Of
these, perhaps, disenfranchisement is the most readily present in GT society, where most are
disenfranchised from (to the degree of expulsion) the ‘better parts of society’. Various mechanisms
from lack of educational access, racial discrimination, nepotism, corruption, etc., are effective in
maintaining a rigid order of society that effectively perpetuates itself. In addition, extreme levels of
inequality may be a major contribution to the strain on this component of action. While almost half
of GT society lives in poverty, a tiny fraction of the elite lives in extravagant excesses with most
agreeing that this disparity is not an example of a ‘just’ distribution of societal resources, nor a just
system of recompensation for the participation in organizational roles (of society). At the individual
level, strain is derives from a lack of recompensation for their participation in societal roles. In
addition, disenfranchisement adds to this strain because participation in desirable societal roles may
not even be a possibility. In mobilization level 5, a strong sentiment amongst the mobilization series
is discernible among the members of the social movement. Because while no one has a unified plan
of the allocation of societal resources in society amongst the various sectors it is composed of, almost
everyone would agree that the political class in particular was enriching itself on behalf of everyone
else. No consensus was needed about where these resources were rightfully due, as long as a general
agreement was achieved that they did not belong to the political class that had fraudulently allocated
these resources to itself and its allies. While the strain identified here, as we will see below, is related
to ‘higher’ levels of the components of action (values and norms), the manifestations of the
consequences of the immorality of political leaders may be one of the most easily recognizable and
distinctively argued causes of strain.
Thesis | 57
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
4.2.3 Strain on norms
At the concrete levels of strain (5-7), strain is experienced as a disconnection between organizational
regulations, guidelines, and individual practices. In the case of GT, this is demonstrated in the failure
of formal guidelines and coordination to formally organize the political operations of the country. As
it became evident that neither the codes of operation or executive coordination of the state served to
benefit the population, the lower levels of strain were activated. At the higher levels of strain (1-5),
the movement often invoked calls for changes at the more abstract levels. For instance through reform
to the electoral law and the laws of congress, the campaigning laws, etc. The impairment of the
allocation of societal resources (mobilization level 5) is directly attributable to a failure of observing
an appropriate code of conduct (i.e. the law) on behalf of the political class (norms level 1-2). While
at the very concrete levels of strain, this is exemplified both in the allocation of personal to fulfill
concrete roles (i.e. the current legislative procedures allows for a perpetuation of the condemned
practices of the political class that maintains ‘unfit’ persons to fulfill the roles in the political system,
primarily norms level 2-4).
Primarily, reformation claims on the state is the most concrete demonstration of strain on norms,
because the normative state regulations have failed to adequately serve the purposes that they are
expected to fulfill. theoretically, these issues could be attributed to lower levels (i.e. poor provisions
of healthcare could be attributed to a single hospitals poor administration and management of
resources). However, proportions of these issues identifiable at the societal level (for instance in a
general state of medical emergency) is one indication that these issue is located, not in local or
individual institutions, but at a higher level. Likewise, the general failure on behalf of the political
system to provide provisions for public services indicates a failure on behalf of the normative systems
rather than at lower levels.
4.2.4 Strain on values
Appears to have been a decisive at issue, albeit only at the more immediate levels (6 & 7), whereas
in norms, mobilization and situational facilities, we find strain at higher levels (1-5). This is an
important point that has also been part of shaping the discourse in the social movement (which we
will assess closer below under the formation of a generalized belief). At level 5 of values, generally
associated with ‘isms’ such as capitalism, totalitarianism, socialism, etc. we find hardly any mentions
at all and no reasons to assume that strain has been exerted on the value systems of individuals or
Thesis | 58
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
organizations of GT society (bearing in mind that strain must be invoked within the limits of structural
conduciveness). However, values at the concrete levels (7 & 6) appear to have been under strain due
to corruption and dishonesty on behalf of the political class of GT. In Smelser’s terms, the morality
of an individual (if this is the center of a movement’s attention) is defined under level 7 of values.
However, if the immorality of the individual is seen as symptomatic of the organized government as
a whole, we move to level 6 in the values series. At level 5 we move to the kind of system that would
permit such ‘scandals’, in other words we move to the issue of the social integration of values on an
aggregate level. The imperative distinction in our dissemination of values, then, must address whether
strain in relation to the social movement was at level 5 or 6. At level 6 we may readily say that the
dishonesty of Molina and Baldetti was viewed as symptomatic to the political class as a whole, and
that efficiency of the functioning of the political class was perceived, effectively, to be in peril (and
with it most of the rest of the stately institutions an major societal sectors). However, strain of values
as to the functioning of the political system as a whole, does not appear to have been in effect (level
5 or higher). Capitalism, liberalism, free markets, the centralized state system, etc. was not invoked
as a strain in the social movement or otherwise and predominantly personal traits were viewed as the
linchpin of the issue. No value system was attacked as a cause of the indecency and fraudulence of
the political classes, although norms were frequently. During the protests, many calls were made for
normative changes to the political system (especially the electoral part of the political system) before
new elections should be held. These goals, we may call the concomitant goals, however, were not
achieved though they were very much part of the call of the demonstrators. The call for normative
changes, but not fundamental value changes should illustrate to us the emanating center at the heart
of the social movement. Strain on all of the aspects evaluated are readily present in the social
movement composition and adhere to the principles set out by Smelser in the structural framework,
also without subscribing to utilitarian ‘economical’ principles of analysis and limiting our scope to
exclusively ‘economic’ terms and aspects.
However, besides the strain on values related to state politics, a fundamental change of values was
also addressed, but this change was directed towards the public itself. Most importantly, the
overcoming of decades of silence in the political arena, the public overcame the silence and joined in
a movement against the political leadership to express a new value orientation: no more passivity in
the face of political corruption and fraudulent administration, whitewashing of scandals and money
alike, impunity, etc. This value change would reconfigure the public’s orientation towards themselves
as political actors: from a lack of belief in the ‘power of the people’ or leverage of popular opinion.
Thesis | 59
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
This re-orientation and replacement of the public values and their formation into new according
norms is a major accomplishment of the movement, tacitly or not, what it did was to bring about this
explicit cultural change. Notwithstanding, change may have been happening gradually or
incrementally prior to the movement i.e. though a longer process, but with the emergence of the
protests and manifestations, those gradual changes crystallized in the shape of a social movement
with which society was permanently changed in a very short period of time. Perhaps at the very heart
of the movement lies the indignation and contempt that has been present for years but which has been
subdued and silenced or manifested in political apathy. Likewise, apathy and a lack of belief in the
possibilities of reform or the use of public protests, belief in the ‘power of the people’ or their ability
to unite and make a change, may be part in explaining why previously no large-scale mobilizations
have emerged in the country.
4.3 Generalized belief
4.3.1 A longer process
It is worth considering that long before the discovery of the La Línea case, both Molina and Baldetti
were implicated in various corruption scandals. Molina’s dated back some ten years where as Baldetti
had remained somewhat ‘under the radar’ at least until more recently. However, particularly her
spending habits after reaching congress were revealing of her involvement with corrupt powers as
she was spending far beyond what her paycheck would allow89. Hence, the resentment towards the
pair was not formed, as we shall see, merely on the emergence of a single case (La Línea). A
generalized belief started forming long before April 2015 about the inappropriateness of the duo at
the helm of Guatemalan society. On April 8th, 2013 the director of El Periodico, José Rubén Zamora,
dedicated a nineteen page story in his newspaper to a criticism of the ‘presidential couple’ when after
14 months in office it had already become clear that corruption was proliferating, in spite of the anticorruption campaign on which Molina and Baldetti had made their way to the presidency90. Shortly
after Molina and Baldetti’s rise to power, the hashtag #frasesbaldetti emerged, ridiculing Baldetti’s
El periodico and other news outlets have brought many reports on the many properties of Baldetti that clearly could
not derive from her paycheck as depute nor vice president. Many of these were funded by illicit money and activities as
well as corrupt donations and in other ways of clandestine activity.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
public statements and talks91 92. These are now a testimony to the outrage most Guatemalan’s held
against the Vice President, long before the implications in 2015 also for other reasons than corruption.
Frases Baldetti were not particularly aimed at corruption, rather the hashtag sought to promote
attention to the inaptitude of the Vice President. Some considered whether the orations of Baldetti
were deliberately ‘stupid’ to derail attention away from corruption and a host of political issues or
whether Baldetti just was ‘stupid’. In either case, her public speeches generated, along with
corruption, a tangible discontent.
Another way the formation of a general belief can be observed is in the public stance towards the
governing apparatus of the country. The congress of Guatemala is among the region’s lowest scoring
on public trust and confidence in its governing function. Briscoe & Pellecer (2010: 6) describes the
congress as ‘chronically lacking legitimacy in the eyes of the public’. In 2009, only 48 percent of the
public believed that the congressional system, political parties or the parliament itself was essential
to democracy93. The general perception of democracy in Guatemala was generally low compared to
other countries in the region and fell by 10 percentage points in 2011 94. Follwing these reports by
Latino Barómetro, the trend in the perception of the political system in GT is generally extremely
poor, and support for the military remains amongst the highest in the region95.
4.3.1 Media support
Besides the use of social media, the involvement of news media outlets also played an important role
in the development of a generalized belief. While the news could have been silent, either for fear of
retaliation through any form of repression (violence, political influence, defamation, etc.), or through
collaboration, they brought articles, stories, and reports covering the Molina and Baldetti case as well
as the state-sector system, the military, and other issues. Particularly the private media outlets
contributed, whereas local TV and satellite did remained quiet on most of the topics reviewed here96.
The reasons why was exposed later in the ‘caso cooptación del estado97’, thus in the following ‘media
The split between military supporters and ‘non-supporters’ in Guatemala has also traditionally been very strong. The
military has for most period held power in the country, and the only period marked by a center-left government in the
country was during Álvaro Colom’s presidency (UNE [Unidad de la Esperanza] 2008-2012).
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
outlets’ concerns, principally, the private media outlets. Coverage, not just of the presidential duo,
but also of the entire state-sector administration and rampant public issues, was one component in
forming the general belief that preceded the first large-scale demonstrations on April 25th, 2015,
which is important piece in explaining how an otherwise non-advertised demonstration reached
around 20.000 participants, almost exclusively by Facebook circulation98 99. In this respect, in order
for the mobilizations to be successful, a generalized belief must have already existed. An intuitive
understanding of the situation that was able to guide the actions of thousands of people who, almost
instinctively, responded positively towards the demonstration appeals made on Facebook by the just
formed Renuncia Ya group. The value-added framework determines the existence of a pre-formed
general belief in order for collective action to occur and we can observe this phenomenon quite
Besides this, the news’ evaluations and disseminations of the ongoing events served a different
purpose as well: creating a general understanding (based on providing information in general) was
one thing, but to formulate it in a discourse that bridged the societal divides is another. While these
divides are still not resolved, at the very least a common discourse (or frame) was established in
which ‘blame’ was neither assigned to the rural or urban populations. Instead, the political class was
the target of most of the critique as well as the old ‘military guard’ still very much present in GT
politics (through the CIACs). Here it is important to point out, that the military is not the issue, but
more precisely the clandestien networks of power that grew out of the internal conflicts and departed
from the military institutions, the influence of which is the primary problem. Secondly, many of the
people involved with the shadowy network played important roles in severe crimes during the internal
conflict. Nevertheless, to mend the discursive divides (‘incongruent frames’) of the groupings of GT
society was an important task in order to create a generalized belief on this scale was to be created.
While this, of course, is not a complete picture, the case in point remains that many central news
outlets published critical examinations of public affairs and did not ‘side with’, or ‘pit’ social groups
against each other (primary outlets considered include: Prensa Libre, El Periodico, Contra Poder, La
Hora, Soy 502, Nomada, and Plaza Publica). This was an imminent part of enabling the cohesion of
a social movement composed of very different societal groups. Some outlets of course remained open
to views of the extreme right (which appears as the primary problem, much more than extreme left
Thesis | 62
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
groupings that are rarely represented anywhere). In 2012, Guatemala’s Human Rights Commission
(GHCR) noted that national news outlets have allowed the expression of ultra-right groups (such as
the ‘Foundation Against Terrorism’ and ‘Liga Propatria’). While this is true, and regrettable, much
journalistic work has been focused on avoiding confrontations between extreme positions in the
political sphere and discourse, and the importance of this work is imperative.
To reiterate, this influence relies on two crucial dynamics: 1) the spread of information and
knowledge on general societal matters of the country to a broad constituency and 2) the dissemination
of this information and delivery in a discourse that avoids ‘pitting’ societal groups against one another
but rather to present the information in a discourse that encouraged popular support and solidarity
across traditional barriers. This later point must also include the critical evaluation of political and
societal matters because the press brought to the front pages many serious social issues (such as water
pollution/scarcity, critical assessments of political programs, HR violations, poverty issues, etc.).
4.4 Precipitating factors
Without a doubt, the revelation of the La Línea corruption ring was the ‘trigger’ for the movement,
though we may spend some time contemplating what would have happened, had this particular case
not rolled out. Was this case fundamental to the development of the Renuncia Ya movement, or was
it a mere coincidence that the movement developed in the aftermath of this scandal? What we have
already outlined in the section on general belief is that the development of a general belief is
incremental; it did not occur from one day to another. The La Línea case was not a ‘sudden
realization’ or an ‘awakening’ happening over a short time-period –at least not for most of the
Guatemalans involved. The general belief; the conceptions and knowledge about president Mollina
and Vice President Baldetti had been building to a boiling point were most were already frustrated
and discontent with the executives and where many prior events and developments had already led to
a perception of the political class (as a whole) being involved in large-scale corruption and of the
reigning party and its leaders’ inadequacy to solve the issues, if not making them worse by orders of
Perhaps the most important aspect of the La Línea case was the direct linkage to the top-level of GT
politics. If prior cases had not provided definite links between high-level officials and corruption, the
La Línea case established with great clarity how far corruption permeated the state, and exposed the
responsibility of high-level officials in administering and running these covert schemes. But it would
Thesis | 63
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
be difficult to characterize the situation as being an expression of a ‘structural breakdown’ or ‘rapid
transformation’. In fact, the societal system appears to have been stagnating more than changing;
where the expectations had been for a brighter and better future, real development and societal
progress was sluggish at best except for a tiny fraction of the population.
Although half of the population lives in poverty, GDP growth has been positive for several years and
in the aggregate, the country has been making significant economic progress. In general, the usual
macro-economic indicators have been positive, even though the tumultuous months of protest in 2015
and for the year as a whole, according to numbers from ECLAC100. However, in social numbers, the
population has been experiencing less of the economic development and the prospects of future
inclusion are bleak. Inequality plays a major role in this puzzle where GT has a current score of 55
(ranging from 0=absolute equality and 100 = absolute inequality101), as well as the aforementioned
corruption, which has siphoned resources from the economy and into the hands of a highly condensed
political and economic elite sector. This sector has been the primary beneficiaries of economic
improvement, which can be seen in the poverty rankings provided by ECLAC 102 that show critical
issues of poverty (notice in particular figure 2 on multi-dimensional poverty). Likewise the country’s
public sectors; health, educations, police, infrastructure, etc. are suffering from severe lack of funding
for their operations.
In accounting for the social situation of the country, we aim to address the question of structural
breakdown and rapid transformation as causes for the outbreaks of social movements. In our case,
these determinants do not appear to have been determinants for the formation of the massive social
movements. Rather, unchecked, continuing social strains appear to have been part of forming a
general belief over a longer period of time, which was triggered by a decisive precipitating factor
leading to the formation of a social movement. As we stated above, the formation of a general belief,
then, was a gradual build-up, not a rapid development that happened overnight and the call for
renunciation are likely expressions of the core-belief, rather than the embodiment of the belief itself.
It is important to note because the precipitating factor, like the espoused goals of the movement,
See ECLAC’s publications ’economic panorama for Latin America’ 2013 and 2014 and the latest publication from
2015 predicting an increase in poverty in only three LA countries of which GT is one of them. Numbers from GT are,
however, not very recent with the latest available statistics being from around 2006.
Thesis | 64
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
become merely symptomatic traits of the general beliefs about the state of society, social conditions,
causes for various phenomena, and the ambitions for societal progression and advancement.
This leads us back to a persistent question of the precipitating factors: what would have happened if
the La Línea case had not been uncovered at the time it was or at all? In this event what would have
been of the protests and the movement? I believe it is safe to say that we would have seen a social
movement eventually, regardless of whether or not the La Línea case had been uncovered, for several
reasons. First, the social movement was not developing overnight and was not the result of a systemic
breakdown or rapid transformation. The formation of a general belief, an orientation towards the state
of society and the political class, had already taken form and developed over a long period of time,
the release of which was merely pending. In fact, we may say that it is fortunate that the events played
out as they did because the conducive structures of the situation led to a united public front against
the political class, which in turn was conducive to peaceful means of protest. It is at least possible
that without the occurrence of a decisive precipitating structure, the public sentiment could not have
been unified in a collective protest movement like the one we saw. The La Línea case, however,
provided a decisive case that left very little doubt as to whom was to blame for the poor state of the
country’s public development. In turn, this made it possible to create a movement that was inclusive
of most of the population and which garnered strong political force even without the use of disruptive
action. Likewise it also maneuvered around violent confrontations of any kinds and in the end
achieved considerable success. This is part of the second reason why we should expect to have seen
a movement, even in the hypothetical event that the La Línea case had not been uncovered. But we
should not expect to see a similar event. Not because that it would be impossible, but because the La
Línea case’s importance and compulsory character has likely contributed to the construction of the
movement’s characteristics. The singular clarity of the La Línea case made it possible to inspire a
shared sentiment, to create solidarity among societal groups, and in favor of peaceful means of
protest. Without a decisive precipitating factor as this, the alternative ways of mobilization and
movement formation may have converged to forge other results, i.e. other expressions in terms of
social movements. These could include violent or disruptive means of protest, movements based on
classes rather than broad movements (because of a lack of a unifying goal), other forms of movement
organization, different means of mobilization, other kinds of goals and values, strategies, etc. Third,
and lastly, two important insights from PPT are worth pondering: that strain is more or less always
present in society and that ‘political opportunities’ are needed for social movements to develop. The
former of these two appear quite correct but the extent of underlying strain is not addressed in the
Thesis | 65
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
basic definition, i.e. if the intensity of strain matters for the likelihood of a movement to occur. The
fact that strain, in our case, is at extreme levels seems important for the likelihood of a movement to
occur. This observation is enforced by the observation that manifestations are not uncommon, albeit
at a smaller scale, that addresses many of the underlying grievances. Any of these could, potentially,
lead to the formation of a larger movement103 if the necessary conditions for a large enough movement
would be in place. Had strain been present only to a small extent in conjunction with the La Línea
case not having been discovered, we would have had to consider the likelihood of a social movement
development significantly less probable. In terms of political opportunities, we may interpret the
uncovering of the La Línea case as an opportunity to ‘attack’ the core of the corrupt political class.
Such an opportunity, especially according to the original POS theses, is necessary for a social
movement to develop. But whereas this is an opportunity for success, what we have identified is more
an opportunity for mobilization and for this reason mobilization appears to have been likely,
regardless of whether or not the La Línea case had been uncovered, however, we should not expect
to see the same type of movement and the same goals, incentives, strategies, SMOs, etc. As such, the
La Línea case as a precipitating factor has strengthened the probability of success directly and
indirectly. Directly by weakening the political constituency and the legitimacy of the political class
and by exposing and identifying at least part of the people involved in the political and economic
corruption. And indirectly by providing a decisive case around which the mobilization clustered. The
case figured both as an ‘exemplary’ or ‘general’ case that illustrated what was generally believed to
be the functioning of the political classes. And it provided a unifying cause that could garner a strong
a univocal support across most of the population.
These are, I believe, the most valuable insights of the evaluation of the precipitating factors of this
case. As a point of reflection to these, we may shortly consider the similar events in the end of the
1990ies, in which the Moreno smuggling ring (likely connected with the La Línea ring) was
uncovered. The uncovering of the Moreno smuggling ring went by without any sizeable collective
action or social movement activity. Although the case was covered to some extent by the country’s
media, the response to the case was meager in comparison with our, more recent, case. The Moreno
smuggling ring case was originally uncovered under the presidency of Alvaro Arzu (1996-2000) but
as dismissed under Alfonso Portillo with few judicial consequences.
Either through convergences, alliances, or through build-up of an individual cause, with necessary conditions
determined, at least in part, by the characteristics reviewed an analyzed in this work, though not limited to it.
Thesis | 66
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
4.5 Mobilization
4.5.1 Movement organization characteristics
Smelser states that leadership in bringing crowds into movement is the essential for the formation of
collective behavior, and for this case, the theory fits neatly with the theoretical formulation provided
by Smelser. He states that if the former ‘criteria’ have already been met, all that is needed for an
‘outbreak ‘of collective behavior is the mobilization part. This part receives less attention in Smelser’s
work, perhaps because he saw it as a ‘smaller’ part of the framework, a sort of natural progression
from the other determinants, provided that they were met, mobilization becomes, in the end, almost
indispensable and only inhibited by the operations of social control. The reason why our case fits so
well with Smelser’s formulation is exactly this: the former determinants were already ‘checked off’
(as we have seen above). Strain and general belief was decidedly ‘activated’ and aligned, and the
precipitating factor with the unraveling of the ‘La Línea’ case had ‘readied’ the people (in theoretical
terms) for collective action The mobilization part, in the end, may be almost up to chance. A simple
Facebook event set the whole movement in motion at the first demonstration in April, which already
gathered thousands of people. The ensuing ‘organization’ created based on this event, Renuncia Ya
(Later: Justicia Ya) never became more than an informal, small organization, managed by a few
individuals104 who arranged and called for the ensuing demonstrations from April through August.
Gabriel Wer, one of the primary ‘organizers’ of the demonstrations stated in Fusion Magazine that
he ‘does not see himself as an activist’, even after the 3rd successful demonstration held (around June
14th, 2015). Rather, he states; “there was so much indignation among Guatemalans that the only
thing that was missing was for someone to set a place and a time”105. While the demonstrations
achieved some support from estimated GT citizens (among others José Ruben Zamora 106) and
organizations, by-and-large they were called for and ‘arranged’ solely by non-organizational, civil
individuals. Wer’s statement also directly links mobilization with pre-existing generalized beliefs that
converged into collective action. While these beliefs may have been dissimilar and dispersed, they
were encapsulated by the Renuncia Ya movement and channeled into a collective idea which led the
foundation for the movement. Most impressively, this could be done with almost no formal
According to most estimates, somewhere between five and eight with both included. However between central
members of the ‘core organization’, an increasing ‘formalization’ has developed throughout 2015 and 2016. The group
has created some divisions of labor, increased formal representation, espoused goals, etc.
Thesis | 67
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
organization in place or attempted to be established, and with little work put into building a traditional
bureaucratic organization or formal representation.
This strengthens the observation that informality of movement organization eases mobilization (Piven
& Cloward 1973) but contradicts the proposition that formal organization is a necessity for social
movement to achieve their goals (McCarthy & Zald 1977) -provided we consider the primary goals
of the movement. However, we must also consider how we distinguish between ‘informal’ and
‘formal’ movement. In the following, we characterize the movement as informal in terms of its ‘core
composition’; although one of its most important characteristics was the reliance on ‘supportive
organizations and movements’, which were not necessarily informal. We address this in more detail
in section 4.5.3 contracting organized support below, but the reader must bear in mind this
The core organization also received little publicity, it had no official formal representation (neither a
webpage, address, contact information, etc.), it did no intent to represent any broader interests or
espoused values, it had no ‘code of conduct’, divisions of labor, etc. In fact, the only ‘public relation’
was through the groups official Facebook page and Twitter account. Very little was known about the
group’s members either, and few testimonials surfaced about their relations to the movement. In the
beginning, most portraits featured Lucia Mendizábal, but later Gabriel Wer assumed more of the
outward communication. Thirdly, Álvaro Montenegro also became a known member of the group,
although less attention was given to him as part of the Renuncia Ya group, he has been an outspoken
participant in the political arena through numerous articles and opinions in news magazines107. The
distinctive characteristics remain clear; that the movement was founded on an informal organizational
basis: no formal organization building was necessary to ‘prepare’ for the mobilizations.
4.5.2 Means of mobilization
In Smelser’s terms, the determinants leading up to this stage are decisive in ‘paving the way’ for the
formation of a social movement. In terms of mobilization, if all the prior determinants are activated
and combined, all that is needed is some sort of mobilization, where leadership is usually the only
thing needed to animate people influenced by the former (in Smelser’s outline). However, in our case,
no decisive or specific leadership was fundamental to the mobilization of the movement. The
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
movement was mobilized by an alignment of the generalized beliefs, by channeling them towards a
tangible and visual goal. Before the movement, frustrations and indignation was omnipresent, most
people knew of the corruption in politics and no one supported it. However, there were few ideas to
unite people in collective action and united political participation, and the population was further
dissuaded by the culture of silence that for decades had kept the population silent. Mobilization ended
up being almost intuitive once the simple idea was brought forwards in the shape of a Facebook group
with the simple idea: to do a demonstration for the renunciation of the Vice President (April 25th,
2015). We may disseminate this process into two steps: 1st was to discover an orientation for action
that would appeal to the people already being fed up with corrupt politics and 2nd was to link everyone
who would share this idea together as efficiently and simply as possible.
The first step was realized with the idea of demonstrations against the Vice President. This idea had
appeal for several reasons. Both because of a long-standing indignation towards Roxanna Baldetti
and secondly for her involvement in alleged corruption and various kinds of obnoxious behavior.
Thirdly, because of the recent case of La Línea (the distinct precipitating factor) and fourth, we may
add that the renunciation on a case of alleged corruption would revoke her immunity and, it was
hoped, send her to prison. In combination, these rationalities reverberated broadly with the existing
general beliefs and the second step, then, was merely to link people up easily and effectively into
collective action. Social media could effectively fulfill this gap through a Facebook group and Twitter
hashtags. The Facebook group was the initial means for sharing the information while the Twitter
account appears to be of secondary importance in this aspect. This is deducted from the facts that the
Facebook group shared the date, place, time, idea, etc. as well as attendee information and sharing
options which on the overall made the event function the most efficient and reliable. The functions
‘invite friends’ and ‘share’ are both efficient for spreading event information based on personal
relationships as well as on interests, which gives both a dynamic and relational spread. In terms of
Twitter, information sharing was effectuated through the use of ‘hashtags’, although less efficient for
organizing the demonstrations, these were very efficient for sharing ideas and thoughts and for ‘going
. With the two criteria met, the onset of the movement had begun, no further leadership
was needed for the movement itself to unfold, only modest organizational preparations.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
I consider these two parameters to be the most vital parts of the development form ideas into a largescale movement. Linking existing general beliefs into shared goals and connecting individuals
efficiently into collective action. The primary means to do so was social media and the mechanisms
outlined above, no charismatic leadership was needed to motivate or align people around a shared
4.5.3 Contracting organized support
From the onset, various other organizations were involved in mobilizing participants under the slogan
‘Renuncia Ya’, among these was ‘la Coordinaria Estudiantil Universitaria de Guatemala’ (CEUG),
formed by students from the country’s major universities: Universidad Rafael Landivar (UFL),
Universidad de San Carlos (USAC), Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), and la Universidad
Francisco Marroquin110 (UFM). Although these universities have traditionally been divided due to
ideological differences, the movement of 2015 created a foundation on which all of the universities
were able to unite. Other involved organizations have been CUC (Comité de Unidad Campesina),
CACIF, who has lend support to the movement on various occasions and perhaps provided decisive
support, CODECA111 112 (el Comité de Desarrollo Campesino), CNOC (la Coordinadora Nacional de
Organizaciones Campesinas, UVOC (la Unión Verapacense de Organizaciones Campesinas)113,
MCCC114, and others. Nómada recounts how CUEG, to take just an example, developed from a
smaller group of participants from USAC and URL in the original demonstrations, and how by May
16th the group amassed more than 10.000 participants115 from all four universities. The participation
of ‘influential persons’, the publication of the event in a local newspaper, and the support of other
movements, helped the hashtag gain momentum and also caught the attention of the general media116
Similarly, other organizations participated in mobilization in favor of Renuncia Ya by mobilizing
their own constituencies towards the same goals. While official statistics are not available and none
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
of the organizations provides much information on their mobilizations118, it can be said with relative
certainty, that the cooptation of the organizations to reach a shared goal was fundamental in amassing
the large-scale demonstrations. It can be assumed with some certainty, that without the broad
organizational support, joining Renuncia Ya’s ideas, tactics, dates, targets, hopes, etc. the
mobilization would not have reached the scale that it did. Though mobilization may easily have been
possible and even extensive, the legitimacy, encouragement, fraternity, and shared belief granted by
the large organizational agreement between several organizations of the country, would not have
contributed to the mobilizations, which would have decreased its size. Although it is often argued
that organization played little to no role in the mobilizations, the empirical data seems to contradict,
at least to some extent, the argument that the demonstrations (in the aggregate) were almost
exclusively based on existing social networks119 and that little other organization was involved. The
assertion has been made on several occasions before, during, and after the demonstrations of 2015
and by various news outlets (no official investigations appear to be available). However, reporting
throughout the events, when reviewed, seemed to contradict the argument, at least to some extent. It
is difficult to assert to which degree and we may recognize the possibility that both arguments are
‘true’ in their own right.
The involvement of formal organization was perhaps more incidental than intended, however, this
does not contradict the argument of about the core organization as being highly informal. The original
movement was a broadly supported, public, movement, happy to obtain affirmation from groups and
organizations sympathizing with their cause, regardless of what those groups’ other interests might
be. Exactly because the movement’s constitution was highly informal, but the goals very concrete, an
opening was created for a broad organizational constituency that would aid in the mobilization
aspects of the movement, without infringing on the primary goals of Renuncia Ya, nor the values and
goals of ‘supporters’.
4.5.4 Decentralized organization as strategy
To illustrate the idea outlines above, we may want to test the assumption in a thought experiment. If
a formal organization attempts to create a movement to meet some goal or other, its organizational
all sources are from news outlets who have reported on the demonstrations in the aggregate with some special
references now and then to individual organizational influence
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
ties may become impediments to potential collaboration from other organizations. Simply put,
mobilization arranged by a formal organization, such as a trade-union, may already have excluded
potential collaboration by any other union (for instance employer’s unions) from providing their
support, because of the conflict of interest between the organizations’ values, ideas, cultures, etc. even
if they could agree on the original case in point. In the thought experiment, the participant might ask
herself ‘if I participate in this demonstration, what am I subscribing ?’ -By my support, what other
initiatives and campaigns will I be lending my support to? What other ideas, ideologies, etc. does this
organization support? Which kind of organization is it that I, by my support, am granting legitimacy
to in their operations? Etc. These and many other questions provide obstacles to potential
collaboration with broad constituencies and diverse participants because if any one of the questions
is not answered in the affirmative, participation may be averted. Not because of a lack of support or
recognition of the particular issue at hand, but because of contingent incongruity with other
organizational aspects, embedded and espoused in the formal organization.
In the informal organization, on the other hand, many of these issues can be averted. The informal
organization does not possess the same espoused values, normative statements, and cultural
perceptions of the functioning of society. In our case, it is shaped by a concrete and broadly shared
goal and an incentive that appeals to most of a society that already loathed the heads of government.
By supporting the Rennuncia Ya movement, the issues reviewed above were evaded, exactly because
of the informality of its organization: having only a few, simple, but broadly acceptable espoused
values, no political interest groups, no hierarchy, etc. This coupled with the unambiguous and
straight-forward objective (renunciation of Molina and Baldetti) made the choice of participation
much easier for potential participants and supports (compared with, for instance, if the demonstrations
had been organized by a formal, existing organization handling vested interests, such as CODECA
or CACIF). This also supports Gamson’s (1975) observation that ‘groups with single issue demands
are more successful than groups with multiple issue demands.
The distinction made here and its implications for the development and success of the movement, I
believe, are of crucial importance. Though this ‘strategy’ or ‘tactic’ may not be a universal principle,
in our case it appears to have been of great strategic importance. Suppose, for instance, that the
movement had been organized by CODECA or CACIF (the former a farmers trade union and the
latter the country’s largest employer’s union). The vested interests, preconceptions and historical
enmity between societal groups, ideological complications and questions of political interest, would
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
all have been deterrents to the mobilizations and the spread of the movement. The attempts to
discredit, disband, scorn, criticize, or in other ways deter the credibility and legitimacy of the social
movement, would have been endlessly more easy for the extreme right, the militaries, the corrupt
networks and organized crime, had the mobilization been based on formal organization arranged by
CODECA, CACIF or any other formal, existing, political organization.
The balancing, more concretely, of formality and informality, then, appears rooted in this aspect and
in the movement composition which was centered on a ‘loose core’ without bureaucracy or formal
organization in charge. The organizational aspects, incidental to the development of the movement
composition, then, cannot be planned in much concrete details, but emerge whenever existing
organizations join the movement and more or less voluntarily contributes with various aspects of
formality, legitimacy, and resources. In our case, to the extent that empirical evidence can support,
formal organization, then, has been incidental but influential. However, formal organization was not
part of the movement organization, but only of supporting movements and organizations. These
organizations contributed to establishing legitimacy, to maintaining momentum, spreading
information, mobilizing supports, and providing political support. It appears likely, that this broad
support was made possible through the informal movement organization, and that this organizational
participation can also be considered in relation to Olson’s (1965) ‘freerider dilemma’, much more
successfully than individual participants’ aspirations.
4.6 Social controls
4.6.1 Preventive means (alleviating strain)
The first considerations is whether or not the GT state (as a whole) has taken steps to alleviate public
strain prior to the mobilizations. If so, steps to prevent public strain is viewed as one way of mitigating
collective action and social movements from developing. Social controls based on public repression
had, it appears, diminished in recent years. But, as we have elaborated above, strain was severe on all
operative levels, and little was being done to alleviate the strain which could have been acted as a
preventive measure. Neither has political participation been open for the broad population and
especially formal (high-level) politics has been closed off though the press has had somewhat access
to the political arena, much remains shrouded. For the general population, political participation
appears almost impossible at the higher levels, and public wishes are, for the most part, neglected.
Organized resistance and influence group appears as the only ‘channel’ through which ordinary
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
people gets a voice, unless they are part of some higher echelon of society. At the municipal level,
slightly more influence can be had amongst the citizens on their own municipality though this is far
from a general rule and corruption has also extended well in to the municipal positions120. Again, no
social controls seem to have been in action to prevent the development of the movement, and no
serious initiatives appear to have been taken to alleviate public strain. With the rampant corruption,
indeed the reverse seems more to have been the case. A plurality of strain exists because of the harried
state-system, which had literally been bleed for resources, sapped directly into private funds. Coupled
with low-levels of tax revenue, few means remained to alleviate public grievances, even in the cases
where the state tried121.
4.6.2 Use of force
No direct use of force appears to have been directed towards the demonstrators. Contrary to historic
means of control and to other demonstrations in the country, no military or police force was directed
against the protesters and no reports have surfaced about missing demonstrators, violence against
demonstrators, denied access, forced expulsions, etc. While control was exerted in other respects
(such as against Paz y Paz and Ivan Velázques), direct force against the participants appear to have
been absent.
Therefore, while the demonstrators went unscathed, control was sought in other places of the political
arena instead. The removal of Claudia Paz y Paz was one aspect. We may assume with relative
certainty that the removal of Paz y Paz was planned and intended to remove a threat to corruption and
organized crime from the political arena to maintain a space of operation for these clandestine
networks. While it proved misfortunate to those interests that her successor, Thelma Aldana,
continued her work ardently, the strategy to remove her through a virtual coup seems clear. This
strategy appears also to be common among the elite power. During the elections 5 people were
targeted and assassinated during the election process122 which, in a different manner, illustrates the
application of violence in corrupt politics (though, since the murder cases were apparently never
Especially Mayors of various communities are often involved in corruption scandals, at lower ‘levels’ than the La
Línea case, but often of considerable scale.
To review some cases, recent issues have particularly focused on water, education, infrastructure, and public health.
All three area in immediate need of investment for improvement (see appendix 9 for further elaborations and outlines).
All were running for mayor in different communities of Guatemala but were assassinate without much publicity
about the killings. Though they were in the news the presence of reports on the subject was limited. The 5 were targeted
killings while ‘collateral’ killings at least as many. The violence however appears to have decreased slightly since the
last election. See timeline in appendixes for more info.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
concluded, it is as likely that drug cartels or organized crime could have been behind the killings).
Traditionally, this resort to force has also been common in the country (as we have noted earlier) and
it appears still to be in application where it is possible or where the clandestine organizations can
reach agreement. It seems that high-profile killings have somewhat waned in later years, but lowerprofile killings are still in effect. Likewise, against other parts of the population (as in the case of the
demonstrations on October 6th 2012, see timeline in appendix 11 for more information) violence has
been applied to achieve political goals. Likewise, indications of gang-violence and organized crimes
appear recurrent; however, these cannot be attributed strictly to the state apparatus or the political
arena in any formal sense. They appear relatively removed from the influence of the social movements
of 2015 as well, though they are very influential in other matters. Foremost in repressing security
reforms and stalling development in the struggle against organized crime. It is known that the
influence and connections between politics and organized crime stretches well into the state
apparatus123 but it is not as easy to detail how these forces operate more concretely, except on the
basis of existing investigations into criminal networks. Today, the situation seems to have changed,
and the criminal networks operating inside the state seeks to be based on pragmatic relationship and
decentral structures.
4.6.3 New corrupt structures, new strategies of control
The change in the corrupt networks infiltrating the state has come about, it seems, through a co-option
of the state and the extensive criminal networks of Guatemala124. While politics and organized crime
has been linked for a large part of Guatemala’s history, the recent creation of a democratic state have
created a new amalgamation between the two. Luis Jorge Garay, a Colombian specialist in organized
crime, states that “over the last three decades, illegal networks that have co-opted the state125 – from
within and from without – to facilitate criminal operations have left thousands dead in Latin America
and generated impunity, fear, and unease” (also see last footnote). The reality and severity is still felt
by those public officials who seek to end the co-option of the state and organized crime syndicates.
For instance, Paz y Paz fled Guatemala immediately after her term ended to avoid assassination or
capture by these forces. Recently Thelma Aldana stated that she feared for her life as a consequence
See also ‘Caso Coptación del Estado’.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
of her persistent action against corruption and crime in Guatemala126. Ivan Velasquéz has similarly
stated that ‘fear must not paralyze us’127. In general, the practices of instilling fear have seems to be
a useful tool for corrupt forces to suppress political opposition, though it does not appear that these
clandestine organizations are currently targeting the public specifically. In 2014, Insight Crime
documented the battle over the justice system of Guatemala in a report that shows how both political,
economic, and criminal interests seek to gain control and influence over the judicial systems 128. In
the report from 2014, Insight Crime concludes that [the state] “has long been infested with organized
crime. The problem now is that the two seem to be fused more tightly than ever, and that this new
ethos new ethos has permeated the state at all levels”.
Through the co-option of the state, the criminal networks have succeeded in subduing formal
resistance to the infiltration of the criminal networks, not through violent means per se but simply by
seizing control of vital parts of the state apparatus. The sophistication of this institutionalization of
corruption has become increasingly matured with the transformation of the Guatemalan state since
1985. The control over the judicial system, outlined in the report by Insight Crime, reveals but a piece
in this puzzle. By reaching deep into the judicial system, the co-option seeks to grasp not only indirect
and clandestine power through extortions, blackmailing, etc. but also by institutionalizing their reach
in formal political institutions (exemplified, for instance, in the case against judge Sierra de Stalling129
). Technically, this parallels what Zald, Morril & Rao (2002) refers to as ‘iron triangles’ – a
technique of securing and stabilizing political arenas by a formal institutionalization of policy through
the state apparatus devised to secure the effectuation of desired objectives. The co-option of the state
was closing in on this goal of establishing an ‘iron enforcement’ of the desires of these particular
groups. The success has been visible, particularly in the failure to reform the state system and oust
corrupt forces as well as in the extensive impunity of high-level criminals, at times even referred to
as ‘the untouchables’.
The transformation of the corruption syndicates into a ‘mafia-state’ that consolidated both corrupt
state interests as well as organized crime interests in one, was an achievement of a successful
reorganization of the criminal structures. Whereas the former organizations were formed around
military structures with hierarchies and chains of command, the ‘new’ corrupt networks developed
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
into more ‘business-like’ entities with decentralized organization and multi-facetted operations. The
multi-facetted structures can be illustrated in the prolific parallel structures run and orchestrated by
Molina and Baldetti which extents far beyond the La Línea case (for instance ‘caso IGSS-Pisa’, ‘caso
cooptacion del estado’, ‘caso redes’, etc.). Metaphorically, Insight Crime describes this
transformation of organized crime from the look of a dragon to one of a hydra.
The transformation of these structures, however, feed into the change described in the section 4.1
structural conduciveness towards more complicit means of corruption. Power is orchestrated through
control over resources and political power and decision-making, not through direct violent
confrontations131 and the CIACS has transformed their modes of operations and organizations
likewise. This transformation of the ‘mafia-state’ has likely been part of ‘allowing’ for the social
mobilizations to occur because attention has been directed towards control of the political arena,
officials, state resources, and other aspects of the state apparatus to direct its functions in adherence
with the corrupt powers’ wishes. In other words, the corrupt interests were not focused on the public
sphere but more on the political, which gave space for movement, organization and resistance.
We may hypothesize several reasons why these networks have not particularly targeted the social
movement. One likely reason is the decentralization of the movement itself, the ‘lack’ of central
leadership and front-figures or, on the other hand, a fear of ‘making martyrs’ out of the few leaders
there were, spurring further resistance and contestation from the public, backed by a sweeping public
sentiment. In other words, such an attempt might prove counter-productive in the longer run to these
interests. Another possibility is difficulties in identifying specific targets, which is also linked with
the prior point. Who should be first in line for political assassination, and how would it help these
interests? The answer to this appears to be that extortions seems to, in the first place, have been more
useful in achieving desired outcomes (for instance in the dismissal of Paz y Paz). We must also
consider the use of more indirect forms of oppression through the controls of political decisionmaking. The GT congress is here a primary target of influence. The reach of organized crime into
congress has been a long-standing fact, and instead of outright murder, it is very likely that these
networks are keeping their hand on the political levers this way through rather than through outright
aggression. Usually, financial backing and support has been a significant way to ‘buy influence’ in
Of course, this description is in a general sense, not in an absolute sense. That is to say, violence is present and
enforced by these criminal organizations. However, it is less pronounced and less consistent. It is less coordinated and,
generally speaking, less applied because control over resources, influence, and access provides better means of
maintaining control of the political arena.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
congress, as well as through ‘friendly agreements’ and likewise practices. Again, avoiding violence
but maintaining power in this way has also likely been more productive for these interests, it
counteracts ‘negative publicity’, generalized counter-reactions (as long as the operations remain
relatively secret), and mitigates risks (of prosecution).
As such, in searching for social controls, maintaining a firm grasp on legislative power and through
other indirect channels in the judicial system has likely remained the priority of the corrupt forces,
though we can only theorize about most of this practice. The CICIG and MP continues to uncover the
influence and operations of clandestine powers, but we must assume that much remains to be known.
The contemporary ‘counter-strategy’ of the clandestine networks appears to have been mitigating the
impact of the social movement by minimizing losses rather than counter-attacking.
4.7 Last notes on PPT and RM
Appendix 12 contains my last notes on PPT and RM theory in relation to this case. I have sought to
draw my concluding observations and analyses here, though there was no more room for these in the
assignment. Much of this merely elaborations on points evaluated here and some nuances to the
overall findings and their relations.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
5. Discussion
The first observation for discussion is the usefulness of Smelser’s framework for contemporary studies of
social movements. We must bear in mind the qualifications for the utilization of the theoretical framework that
we made in section 2.5.2, and that we limited our contemplations of Smelser’s theory to social movements in
a PPT or RM definition (not in the sense of collective behavior). This is to say, that many of the original ideas
about the application of the framework has been omitted and new ones have been substituted. In this sense, we
have actually limited Smelser’s original area of application to social movements in the shape of contemporary
definitions rather than the traditional collective behavior definitions. This, in some ways, restricts132 but at the
same time also opens up for new definitions and areas of inquiry (recasting the question and contemplating
RM and PPT enigmas of social movements and, additionally, include institutionalized and formal behavior).
We maintain that social movements are grounded in rational behavior and that it [rational behavior] can be
analyzed with a framework that can encompass other types of behavior as well. Although we are not in a
position to makes comments, from this research, to which extends it is possible to apply this theoretical frame
to other research areas and types of behavior.
The framework has proven a valuable tool for disseminating the components that have constituted the social
movement in question, and for analyzing how these have interacted to form the social movement as it became.
This is particularly useful for analyzing and understanding potential for mobilization (or opportunities) in PPT
theory. As Meyer & Minkoff (2004: 1461-1462) points out, it is important that we distinguish between
opportunities for mobilization and opportunities for success and in this aspect the value-added theory provides
an intelligible, flexible, yet relatively exact framework for conducting SMO analysis. Indeed knowledge from
complimentary findings within the PPT literature is, if not crucial, significantly important to help structure,
define and identify variables for analysis and inquiry, but this does not mitigate nor diminish the usefulness of
Smelser’s framework as such.
Likewise, RM theory can be incorporated under the this overarching frame in order to nuance and improve our
understanding and to help structure more concrete aspects of the analysis regarding organization and resource
mobilization. In turn, these can be incorporated in the PPT considerations, and in any case, the research areas
of both paradigms can be investigated closer through this lens.
We may also be able to disseminate some of the intricate questions that have troubled PPT theory by looking
more closely at case-studies, or more qualitatively oriented inquiries to refine some of the concepts and
assumptions applied by PPT theory and to better understand the interrelations between various concepts. As
excluding 3 out or 5 possible types of collective behavior: ‘panics,’ ‘hostile outbursts’, and ‘crazes’
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Meyer & Minkoff (ibid. p. 1484) argues, working with PPT theory on the more general levels provide for
many issues of complexities (sometimes even contradictory findings) when using data from different cases. In
their words, “…the issue specific models we examined have greater explanatory power than general
dimensions of the political system” Secondly, they also argue that many of the variables checked for turned
out to be of little or no statistical significance. Whether these complexities and contradictions can be reduced
to causal mechanisms (as Meyer & Minkoff indicates their hopes for) will be up to further research to tell and
for this reason, qualitative inquiries may help to provide tentative answers for further quantitative testing and,
at the very least, case-specific understandings of these complexities.
As for the general criticisms of PPT theories (Goodwin & Jasper 1999; Tilly 1995; Meyer & Minkoff 2004),
the ‘value-added theoretical model’ may provide some ideas of, for instance, how to segment opportunities.
Meyer & Minkoff provided the proposal for distinguishing between opportunities for mobilization and
opportunities for success. In a similar vein, the value added framework can help visualizing opportunities in
various other ways, for instance between opportunities for emerging consensuses or ideas, opportunities for
movement formation (or ‘type’ –under ‘conducive structures’) as well as for strategic movement, opportunities
for dissent advancement (strain), etc. While researchers and future research may have additions, corrections,
and alternate methodological approaches to consolidate with the ideas put forth here, I believe there is strong
potential in considering the frame put forward here in connection with conventional PPT formulations.
In terms of RM, our conclusions are less opportune because Smelser’s frame provides less ‘new’ ideas to the
field. However, in terms of the research methodology and progress, incorporating RM and PPT in a unified
qualitative study does seem promising for future research. The interplay of the two paradigms is fruitful as
long as we avoid too rigid structural formulations. While this path will not provide any invariant modeling or
causal mechanisms, tentative empirical documentation of qualitative relationships may provide starting ground
for more sophisticated structural and dynamic theories of social movements. Contrary to the formulations of
political opportunities as being ‘necessary for social movements to form’ (Goodwin & Jasper 1999: 30),
viewing both formation and strategizing as more complex phenomena, not necessarily guided by
‘opportunities’ (other than in the tautological form), may be one way to expand and improve the paradigmatic
theory building.
The empirical conclusions of the RM approach suggests that organization, at least under certain circumstances,
need not be essential to mobilization nor success -at least not formal organization. While organization should
not be viewed, from this, as antithetic to these goals for social movements, our case has provided interesting
observations in terms of both organization building and resource mobilization. The central tenet of the GT
movement was based around a core ‘unit’ – an organization – but there was not ambition to create a formal
constituency in the same . In addition, although the movement was ‘aided’ by a broad constituency of
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
organizations ‘joining in the cause’, still the central aspect of the movement was an informal and un-organized
approach to mobilization and protest.
The empirical foundation of the findings of both the RM and PPT inquiries are lacking from a lack of available
information and clarity, which leaves space open for future research to improve on the observations made here.
In methodological terms, I believe that the inquiry was modelled around the most sensible and available
approach, albeit others may be able to improve on my research in several ways. Most importantly, venues for
‘on-site’ observations, local investigation, and access to data sources are three methodological improvements
that this research could have benefitted from if possible. Access to these additional data sources may create
possibilities for adding or correcting in the observations and conclusions made here. While I had limited access
to Guatemala while spending 3 months from December to February in the country, I was ‘too late’ as the
demonstrations were already passed, and my access was limited there, since my ‘connections’ in the country
were not extensive enough to form the empirical basis for this research. While the stay did help the research
along in many ways, I believe there are plenty more venues to pursue for researchers with greater access and
connections within the country. Especially with regards to ‘historical records’, improved action
In terms of the theory itself, throughout the application of the analytical framework, I have come to believe
that the second part, strain, may need revisions in order to update and improve the study of strain through this
theoretical approach. The extensive elaborations of Smelser become, often, needlessly intricate and
complicated without providing much use for many purposes. The structural nature of the inquiry, I believe,
can be substituted for more qualitative inquiries into the causes and functioning of strain and the relations of
strain with social movements. In particular, I believe that developing an analytical apparatus that connects
strain with RM and PPT would be useful, as both of these approaches tend to ignore underlying grievances
and their relations with social movements, because they treat underlying grievances as universal, these are
essentially assumed and have not been credited with in-depth studies. Through this study, the importance of
updating this part of the theoretical framework has become evident, though retrospect will not correct this flaw
from the present study; I believe it will be possible for future studies to correct for this shortcoming.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
6. Conclusions
The conducive structures identified as influential on the movement were primarily concerned with a
decreasing repression of the public, opening for greater political participation, broadly speaking. At
the same time, the broad political alliance across many societal groupings, many which had been
divided since the founding of the society. Strengthening of the judicial institutions were likewise
conducive to the movement and its final form. These conducive structures both influenced the
movement’s likelihood for success as well as its reliance on peaceful means, which, incidentally,
appears to have been a strong factor for success as well.
The primary strain addressed was identified as a strain on values level 6-7 in Smelser’s taxonomy
and in accordance with the theoretical predictions, we witnessed a progression throughout the lower
levels of strain (norms, mobilization in to organizational roles, and situational facilities). Strain,
furthermore, was widespread among the population, which was likely a significant reason for the
great reach of the emergent general belief that was subsequently identified.
The general belief was strengthened by media coverage and the way that media covered the events,
which had to accord with the movement constituencies and, at the same time, to maintain a ‘unifying
discourse’ that united the peoples across historic dividing axes. This discourse significantly helped
shape the general belief and fostering solidarity even across traditional divides.
We identified the main precipitating factor as the ´La Línea’ case, though both strain and general
belief were unrelated to this particular case and had both been developing for a longer period. Prior
to the ‘La Linea’ case many ‘incidents’ had happened, though this case was the particular ‘missing
link’ that decisively provided a link between Molina and Baldetti and the widespread political
corruption of the GT political system and class. An imminent question in this regard is ‘what would
have happened had the La Línea case not been uncovered?’ Would or could the movement have been
triggered by a different event? Would it simply have looked different? Etc. We cannot properly
address those questions here, but they could help in formulating aspects for future research.
Mobilization, in accordance with the theoretical frame and the events, progressed as expected. Once
the preliminary determinants had been ‘activated’ mobilization would be the next logical progression
for the population and we should expect to see it if any action was taken to meet this end. This
conclusion leads us back to the idea of political opportunities (or processes) as complex, multidimensional phenomena. Smelser’s model offers one way of thinking in these terms and to
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
envisioning a complex and dynamic idea of a political process. In this case, the model has provided
us with a tool for both predicting and understanding political opportunities, especially in relation to
opportunities for mobilization (not as much in terms of opportunities for success). We saw, then, that
the situation was readily appropriated through a creative use of social media, coupled with an informal
organization. The organization, in addition, relied on specific, tangible goals and kept its own
organizational formality extremely scarce.
Concerning social controls, we have noted that repressive control of the population has diminished in
recent years, both generally speaking and in relation to the social movements we witnessed no
application of force to subjugate the demonstrators. Political force was used against Claudia Paz y
Paz to remove her from her position but the attempt to ‘turn the situation around’ failed with the
replacement, Thelma Aldana, being no less perceptive to organized crime or corruption. In other cases
and in earlier times alike political violence has been more pronounced whereas during these
movements, forceful repression has been completely absent. Instead of repression of the population,
the changing criminal structures have turned their attention to other means of control, not least
because of their own organizational developments from hierarchical, centralized organizations to
business-like, decentralized actors only guided by an economic pragmatism.
In RM terms the amount of resources pooled by the entire movement, in money terms, were extremely
few. However, if we expand our conceptualization of ‘resources’, we do find that the movement was
very successful in mobilizing various kinds of resources besides money. The central organization was
also successful in ‘contracting organizational support’ under the ‘umbrella movement to sustain its
force and pressure. In addition, this garnered legitimacy and credibility for the central movement,
elite support and political influence, ‘indirect monetary resources’, and more. In terms of leadership
and expertise, surprisingly little was required to mobilize the population, contrasting much research
on the topic (Caniglia & Carmin 2010: 202). Although ‘supporting organizations’ rapidly joined the
movement, original mobilization and provided additional venues for sustaining and increasing
mobilization, leadership and organization, from the onset, was highly limited and the movement
continued throughout to be directed primarily be informal coordination (i.e. Facebook & Twitter).
Leadership remained absent throughout as well, though we may invoke the notion of ‘legal authority’
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
in terms of the roles of Ivan Velasquez, Thelma Aldana, Claudia Paz y Paz, and others, but in no
instances was a ‘charismatic leadership’ decisively present133.
Finally, concerning the success of the social movement, we have concluded that the social movement
has been relatively successful in reaching its espoused goals. However, we must also note that the
informal constituency of the movement allowed for a dispersion of participant goals, and perhaps
most importantly, the goal of reformation was not achieved significantly although it was an expressed
goal of many participants of the movement. However, it is still concluded that the primary goals of
the movement were achieved. The mass-based movement, along with a broad organizational support
was, I believe, strong factors in attaining the espoused goals in the end. Both, however, seemed to
fade after the espoused goals were achieved, which may also go some way to explaining why
significant reform was not achieved. We must note that a broader congressional support was not
achieved until the demonstrations had developed into a massive force, in which organizational
support left hundreds of stores closed in order for demonstrators to participate in the mobilizations.
At this point, finally, the congress uniformly voted to strip Molina of his presidential immunity. When
this goal was achieved, however, the elite and major organizational support dwindled and most
demonstrators were too fatigued from 5 months of consecutive demonstrations, or they may have
considered the major battle to be won. Regardless, the former strength of the movement dwindled,
and these particularly important characteristics were lost along with the broad, simple, and unifying
appeal that the movement had originally been apple to use to unify and mobilize its member-base.
The dividing axes again became more pronounced once the ‘simple’ and tangible goals were
achieved, keeping the movement ‘together’ and maintaining the strength and momentum it had
originally possessed became more difficult. This may be an illustration as well of one of the
significant difficulties of informal social movements: to maintain momentum for an extended period.
With some reservations, however, as Velasquéz in particular has obtained considerable personal following (for
instance on Twitter with more than 80.000 followers). In a sense he is a charismatic or emblematic character of the
resistance towards corruption, but in terms of leading, he can hardly be characterized as a leader of the movement even
if he, as a person, is an inspiration for many.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
7. Bibliography
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Proceso politico y antagonism social. Guatemala City: Flacso
Aragón, Virgilio Álvarez; Ibarra, Carlos Figueroa; Arriola, Arturo Taracena; Visquerra, Sergio
Tischler; Garcá, Edmundo Urrutia (2013b):Guatemala: Historia Reciente (1954-1996). Tomo IV:
Proceso de paz y context internacional. Guatemala City: Flacso
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Hacking, I. (1983): Representing and intervening: introductory topics in the philosophy science.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Pierce, Charles Sanders (1901): On the logic of drawing history from ancient documents especially
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1947. Originally
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
7.2 Scientific Articles
Abromowitz, S. I. (1973): The comparative competence-adjustment of student left social-political
activists. Journal of Personality vol. 41 pp. 244-260
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research. Historical social research Vol. 34 No. 1 pp. 7-21
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implementation for novice researchers.The Qualitative Report Vol. 13, No. 4 December 2008 pp.
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of the principles of sociology. New York: Barnes and Noble Books
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Repertoires and Cycles of Collective Action, ed. M Traugott, pp. 117–44. Durham, NC
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research. Chicago: Rand McNally. Available online:
Caniglia, Beth Schaefer & Carmin, JoAnn (2005): Scholarship on social movement organizations:
classic views and emerging trends. Mobilization: An international Journal 10 (2) pp. 201-212
Davenport, Christian & Loyle Cyanne (2012): The states must be crazy: Dissent and the puzzle of
repressive persistence. International Journal of conflict and violence Vol. 6 (1) pp. 75-95
Eisinger, P. (1973): The conditions of protest behavior in American cities. American political
science review 67.1 11-28
Flacks, Richard (1967): The liberated generation: an exploration of the roots of student protest.
Journal of social issues vol. 23. Pp. 52-75
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Flyvbjerg, Bent (2006): Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qualitative Inquiry vol.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Kahan, Dan M; Braman, Donald; Gastil, John; Slovic, Paul; Mertz C K (2007): Culture and
identity-protection cognition: explaining the white male effect in risk perception. Faculty
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Publications. Available online at:
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partial theory. American Journal of sociology 82: pp. 1212-1241
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movements, conflict and change 1: 257-289
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
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Turner, Ralph & Killian Lewis (1957): Collective behavior. Englewood Cliffs
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Turner, Ralph & Killian, Lewis (1983): Origins and maintenance of interest groups in America.
American Political Science review 77: 390-407
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organizations? Environmental impact and organizational response. University of Michigan,
available at:
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
7.3 Other publications
CEPAL – Economic commissions for Latin America and the Caribbean (2014) Social panorama of
Latin America. Available at:
CEPAL – Economic commissions for Latin America and the Caribbean (2015): Social panorama of
Latin America. Available at:
Johansson, Rolf (2003): Case study methodology. Key note speech from the international conference
“methodologies in housing research”, organized by the royal institute of technology, Stockholm.
Available online at:
Latino Barométro studies of public attitudes across LA.[1].pdf
OECD (2014): Focus on inequality and growth. Available at:
The World Bank (2006); Poverty Reduction and growth: virtuous circles and vicious circles.
The World Bank (2015): Global Economic prospects 2015. Available at:
The World Bank (2016): Global Economic prospects 2016. Available at:
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Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Most reviewed newspapers for the study
Contra Poder
El Periodico
La Hora
Prensa Libre
Soy 502
NGOs work most reviewed for the study
Crisis Group
Insight Crime
Latino Barometro
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
7. Appendixes
Appendixes ...................................................................................................................................................... 95
Appendix 1: Presidents of Guatemala, 1970-2016. ................................................................................. 97
Appendix 2: Hacking’s 4-square matrix of scientific ontology ............................................................... 98
Appendix 3: The value added theory framework, a closer discussion .................................................... 98
3.1: Underlying assumptions .................................................................................................................. 98
3.2. Components of the model ............................................................................................................... 101
Appendix 4: Crossley’s reconfiguration of Smelser’s value-added model ........................................... 104
Appendix 5: Theoretical contestations of the field ................................................................................ 106
5.1 Emergence of movements ............................................................................................................... 107
5.2 Distinctions between conventional, collective, and interest-group behavior .................................. 108
5.3 Nature of participants ...................................................................................................................... 109
5.4 Nature of movements....................................................................................................................... 110
5.5 Dynamics, growth, and spread of movement activity ..................................................................... 111
5.6 The role of organization .................................................................................................................. 112
5.7 Determinants of movement outcomes ............................................................................................. 112
5.8 Structure and agency ....................................................................................................................... 113
Appendix 6: Further elaboration on the research process and progression ........................................... 114
6.1 Research overview........................................................................................................................... 114
6.2 analytical process and relationship between data an theory ............................................................ 120
Appendix 7 images related to the social movements of GT 2015 ......................................................... 124
Appendix 8: Smelser’s theoretical models for analysis ......................................................................... 127
Appendix 9: Timeline reconstruction of social movement of 2015 ...................................................... 132
2011 ....................................................................................................................................................... 141
2012 ....................................................................................................................................................... 142
2013 ....................................................................................................................................................... 146
2014 ....................................................................................................................................................... 148
2015 ....................................................................................................................................................... 154
2016 ....................................................................................................................................................... 168
Appendix 10: General conceptual framework ....................................................................................... 177
Appendix 11: State violence and resistance .......................................................................................... 180
Appendix 12: some additional notions on PPT and RM theory in relation to the GT movement. ........ 182
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Appendix 1: Presidents of Guatemala, 1970-2016.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Appendix 2: Hacking’s 4-square matrix of scientific ontology
In order to explain the most common ontological contestations in econometric research, Hacking
(1983) provides a simple matric for evaluating the ontological position of a given research project,
here illustrated simply.
‘Realism about entities says ‘Anti-realism about entities
that a good many theoretical denies the proposition of
entities really do exist.’
realism about entities and
says… that we have not and
cannot have any reason to
suppose they are not fictions.
They may exist, but we need
not assume that in order to
understand the world.’
‘Realism about theories says
that scientific theories are
Independent of what we know:
science at least aims at the truth
and the truth is how the world
‘Anti-realism says that at best
warranted, adequate, good to
work on, acceptable but
incredible or what-not’
(Explanations are adopted from Hacking 1983: 28-29 cited in Chao 2009: 11)
While Hacking follows the realist position about both entities and theories, this research paper follows
realism about entities but not about theories (which, as far as I know, is the most common position of
critical realist approaches).
Appendix 3: The value added theory framework, a closer discussion
3.1: Underlying assumptions
The value-added theoretical framework essentially consists of six steps that were briefly explained in
the theoretical chapter of the assignment. In order to explain a little more fully the concepts and
meaning of these six components of the theory we shall review it in slightly more detail here. In
Appendix 8, illustrations of the models applied are available as well. Returning to the value added
model, the fundamental argument, situated in the 6-step, sequential development model, is the point
of departure for this research project. While the entire theory has further concretizations, we must
start from the bare assumption that collective behavior (social movements) emanates from a specific
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Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
combination of 6 theoretical components. Although this appears, at first glance, like an inherently
structural argument, in our evaluation of the theory, this appears as less of the case, very particularly
because the model is not prescriptive. The components can each be viewed as logical deductions, but
they possess almost no predictive value. In this is meant, that while they provide some an abstract,
analytical frame for analyzing social movements in a structured manner, there are almost no given
conclusions (i.e. prescriptive) that can be provided from the model.
I like to compare the model with the contemporary ‘business model canvas’ [BMC](Osterwalder &
Pigneur 2009) in the way the model is constructed. While the BMC does not have a sequential
relation, it provides an analytical frame rather than a structural argument of causal predictions. Its
analytical components are intended to be applied to empirical observation, not to logical deduction
or prescription134. As such, I believe that stressing its qualitative aspects is much more useful than
stressing its structural aspects, other than the value of the structural relations for analytical purposes.
This is also the reason why the model can easily encompass more contemporary, qualitative
approaches and help to systematize and guide empirical enquiries from such a departure. This
research attempts to improve on this frame by incorporating RM and PPT as the foundation of the
analytical aspect under the main framework. And while we pursue a qualitative approach, I believe
that the overarching frame could easily be used together with ‘more’ qualitative orientations as well,
i.e. textual analyses, ethnographic methodologies, phenomenological orientations, etc.
Returning to the concrete aspects of the model itself, the essential idea of the approach is the outline
of the 6 sequential components that, if they are activated and combined correctly, ‘leads’ to outbreaks
of social movements. Smelser’s next attempt is to determine which combinations of determinants
leads to outbreaks of which types of social movements. However, this attempt we dismiss in our
reconfiguration of the model, for several reasons. One of these is that we are not particularly interested
in different types of social movements, but perhaps more importantly, neither does his observations
appear to be correct. Here is where the fundamentally structural characterstic of the theory is raised,
and it is these assumptions that we do not follow in our reconfigured analytical approach.
While these inherently structural aspects have been avoided, the analytical apparatus for strain,
however, has been maintained. I did this because I found it valuable to work with from the beginning
of the theoretical design. However, I have come to believe that this aspect should be reconfigured for
The introduction of the ’value-added’ framework was originally from economic theory as well.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
future research as well. At the very least, that researchers should contemplate the usefulness of this
conceptualization. I do not believe Crossley's modernization on this aspect either by simply stating
that strain arises from a mismatch between ‘expectations and reality’, while this certainly appears
true, it provides very little analytical quality or depth (Crossley 2006). The original framework, on
the other hand, appears to be overly complicated in its modelling. I would advocate for an update to
this approach that maintains the quality of the old, yet simplifies it to better operationalize its
application and perhaps improves the analysis with complimentary theorizations.
In the original formulation, strain was an essential aspect in explaining the development of a general
belief which, in turn, was essential in explaining which kind of collective behavior would result from
the combination of determinants leading up to it. However, this formulation has not been maintained
for this research because of various complications with its application and conceptualizations.
Instead, general belief has been reformulated as ‘rational’ beliefs (in contrast to the original
formulations as ‘somewhat akin to magic’) and to understand general beliefs, instead of prescribing
these general ideas as irrational or worse, the analysis must aim to understand their rationalities rather
than prescribe them. General beliefs are not presumed to be directly caused by strain, but instead they
are influenced through a multiplicity of interrelations that inform and underpin these beliefs. Both
network analysis, media analysis, frame analysis, and others can be adapted to explain the
development of general belief and to better undertand what the fundamental rationality behind might
be (though we do not adopt an in-depth frame here). Assuming a priori that these are irrational,
illogical, etc. seems contradictory to observations (Morris & Herring 1984, see also appendix 5).
We will only shortly consider the background of Smelser’s theory, as we do not share the same
fundamental assumptions in this work. The value-added model presupposed an adherence to Talcott
Parsons’ structural societal theories of society as a self-equilibrating system. He describes the
components of the societal system as stable and argues that societies tend to be based on ‘selfequilibrating mechanisms’ that keeps the interrelations stable. If such systems did not exist, indeed
there would be no reason to call it a ‘system’ at all (Black 1961: 27). While I am sympathetic to the
argument about stability to the system of relations in society, I do not believe that we may deduct a
priori that social movements develop as a consequence of ‘structural breakdown’. In fact, we might
as well assume that the opposite is true as fundamental changes often follow social movements, rather
than the other way around. Likewise, societal changes and developments may be relatively unrelated
to the underlying structural relations, unless we assume that every relation is a qualitative but stable
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
relationship, at which point the argument approaches its limits of usefulness. I believe that it makes
more sense to conceptualize society as far from stable and hardly intent ‘equilibrating’ around any
one specific core. It seems much more likely that a myriad of competing, antagonistic valueorientations, at all times attempts to draw society in different directions, which has the ‘side-effect’
of creating social movements whenever the forces of two or more of these value-orientations are
strong enough. This assumption is more closely related to Marxist conceptualizations, though it need
not be related to classes as Marx’s classical theory concentrated on. Value-orientation may internal
to a single class as much as an inter-class conflict. Indeed, using class as a point of departure may be
counter-productive in the first place, unless the research area is explicitly focused on class. The
instance of Guatemala, for instance, can only to some extent be explained in terms of classes, but the
notion would be quite insufficient in itself to explore the entirety of the dynamics of the social
movement in our case. Nevertheless, the important notion here is that the relations between Smelser’s
theory and Parsons’ are not maintained and that Parsons’ influences are generally not adapted in this
3.2. Components of the model
Reverting to the content of the individual components of the theory: 1) structural conduciveness 2)
structural strain 3) generalized belief 4) precipitating factors 5) mobilization and 6) social controls,
we must also ask what each component contains. As discussed above, the theoretical frame, I belief,
is best applied as a qualitative orientation to social movement research, and each component must be
qualitatively investigated based on empirical cases. But each component can be conceptualized on
the basis of its ‘function’ in the value-added model.
Structural conduciveness considers the structures that sets the frame in which collective action takes
place. Structural conduciveness is guiding both for the possibility of collective action to occur and
for which characteristics it may possess. For instance, the ‘available time for action’ is of great
importance. Smelser provides and example of a sinking ship: here there will never be a possibility to
start an organization, debate possible solutions, lobby for more safety on board, etc. which highly
limits the shape that the social movement may be able to take. This aspect in other words, ‘sets the
stage’; the broad frame for collective action. This may be seen in very general terms (for instance
with respect to the sinking ship) but in this research w attempt to discern how conducive structures
also influence available strategies (to the extent that the environment may do so). While some factors
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
are ‘decisive’ some may be rather conducive as they do not rule out possibilities per se but perhaps
rather makes them ‘undesirable’ or ‘unlikely’. An example from this research is the composition of
the social movement, which we characterized as a broad alliance across various classes, including
classes that have traditionally been strongly divided. While this does not rule out disruptive measures
per se the interclass relations and fragile solidarity is conducive, in the literal sense of the word, to
peaceful and non-disruptive means of protest. It is not because disruptive means are not available or
possible, but rather that the political setting and movement characteristics makes a choice of such
tactics highly undesirable. This was realized by the organizers as well who emphasized the
importance of peaceful means of protest and non-disruptive strategies in the demonstration call. In
this research, such qualitative characteristics are viewed as conducive, though they are both
contextual and non-causal.
Structural strain considers, in informal terms, the underlying grievance(s) that are expressed in social
movements (or collective behavior). Smelser develops this aspect of his theory in detail and through
a large model that contains a total of 28 ‘classes’ of strain. The whole model is provided in appendix
8, table 5. This model continues Parsons and Shills’ theory of action, only that it has been adapted to
social systems. It argues that action is based on four components and that these four components are
the essential characteristics of the situation in which action is supposed to happen. In Smelser version
(not the original) those components are formulates as 1) values 2) norms 3) mobilization into social
organization and 4) situational facilities. Each of these components, in turn, are sub-divided into 7
‘levels of specificity’ each.
The idea is to provide a comprehensive, classificatory scheme to encompass all instances of collective
action and to be able to outline all kinds of strain related to these. The adequacy of such a modeling
is questionable, though I have not updated it for this study. I regret this decision now, but I can only
recommend for future research to improve on this modelling. However, the model functions relative
simply by listing the four first components hierarchically in the succession outlined above. Strain on
any component will, as a consequence, lead to strain on all components ‘lower’ in the hierarchy.
Strain may move up this ladder as well though this is not necessary. On the other hand, strain always
moves down through the lower levels. The same is true for the ‘sub-categories’ where strain, likewise,
always moves down the hierarchical structure as well as to the ‘right’ (when reading the model). This
outline should be simple enough to understand and to interpret the modelling, however, practical
implication, as I have mentioned before, has been more complicated.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
In the original formulation, the concept of generalized belief is associated with simple forms of
argumentation, highly ‘lacking’ in formal reasoning and are accounted for as ‘inferior’ to institutional,
‘normal’ reasoning. However, in our ‘updated’ version of the value-added framework, we do not
assume such crude ideas about generalized believes. In fact, in this research I have tried to refrain
from a priori conceptualizations of what a generalized belief is constituted from. In the structural idea, the
simplification of generalized beliefs in to some generic ‘forms’ with some specified relations between these
elements makes it possible to construct a very rigid theory on the relations between various kinds of strain and
generalized beliefs. Further, these beliefs can then be connected with various kinds of collective behavior in
the structural approach. These ideas are not part of this research, where the reasoning of participants of the
social movement is not denigrated. In fact, the universes of meaning and the discourses surrounding social
movements are understood as vastly more complex phenomena, which are eligible for individual studies in
themselves and which cannot be reduced to so such crude configurations.
Nevertheless, we maintain the idea of the generalized belief, which does constitute a basis for action for the
participants of the social movement. We just do not assume that this basis is irrational or inferior to normal
reasoning. Neither do we preserve the ideas of the ‘spread’ of generalized beliefs through rumors, ideology, or
superstition which are argued as typical causes of development of generalized belief. Instead, we aim to keep
the category open for empirical explanation, while only maintaining the simple definitions that 1) generalized
believes are related to strain and 2) that generalized believes prepares participants for action. In view, it makes
sense to try and connect the generalized ideas, discourses, narratives, frames, etc. with the identified strain(s)
and secondly to investigate how exactly these believes relates to preparing and activating participants for
action. These questions I have not sought to answer deductively or a priori but only sought to investigate
The fourth component of the model is precipitating factors which are understood as ‘events that trigger’ the
outburst of the social movement. The precipitating factor can be a particular event, circumstance, or similarly
that provides a clear exemplification of the strain and related generalized belief. Because of this quality, such
an even is very often decisive in ‘triggering’ the outburst of collective action. In our case, for instance, such
an event could readily be identified in the La Línea case, which was merely a particularly clear-cut illustration
of what most Guatemalans already new. The event does not necessarily have to take place right before the
outbreak of a social movement, but it will typically be related to this. We should also note that because of our
general definitions that all components merely needs to be triggered in the correct combination, the actual
time of the happening of a precipitating factor is irrelevant. However, its evocation in relation to the other
determinants is imperative. Returning to the definition, Smelser also defines the precipitating factor as
something that ‘…confirms the generalized suspicion…’, for instance, it ‘transforms anxiety into a fear of a
specific threatening agent’ which is decisive in leading up to an event of collective action. The importance of
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
this component, Smelser recognizes, is not ‘its objective qualities… so much as the meaning which they
[precipitating factors] are assigned…’ This last definition is important, again, to reconfirm the qualitative
characteristics of the theory.
The Fifth component is Mobilization which is not given much theoretical attention in his work. Probably as a
consequence of the theoretical assumptions about collective behavior and social movements related to the
theory. Not much attention (if any) is given to organization and motivation for mobilization, as mobilization
is seen more generally as a consequence of the other determinatns in combination. However, in this study
considerable emphasis is laid on this component which is informed, to a large extent, by knowledge from both
RM and PPT research. More contemporarily, social movemetns have come to be viewed in light of political
and organizational relations more so than as ‘iuninstitutional collective behavior’ which prompts attention to
factors such as the political environments, networks, organizations, etc. as influential in mobilizing
participants. For this research, therefore, mobilization is viewed as an integral element of social movements
and mobilization is not strictly determined on the basis of the former components or their possible
combinations. In many instances, decisive other factors are imperative for a social movement to develop, and
those factors are what we look closer at in relation to mobilization. Mobilization, thus, is viewed much
generally in relation to or conjunction with regular action (or institutional action) and not as a different category
of action.
The last component, social controls, is concerned with mechanisms that work to either 1) prevent or 2) counter
outbreaks of collective behavior. Whereas the former (1) are measures taken prior to the outbreak of the social
movements (for instance steps to alleviate strain, or to improve access to political decision-making for
minorities), the latter are only brought into the effect after the social movement has developed. These
mechanisms range from violent repressions to much more peaceful means of dialogue and diplomacy. In
general, however, this aspect can consider a wide variety of controls- if they can be manipulated and if they
influence the social movement, they are possible social controls for countering the social movements. We need
not assume beforehand that they are either violent or not, or ‘good or bad’. They are simply considered as
preventive controls or as (‘reactionary’) controls to counter the further development of the movement by
whichever means are useful for doing so.
Appendix 4: Crossley’s reconfiguration of Smelser’s value-added model
Nick Crossley (2006) has made the only other attempt to re-appropriate Smesler’s value-added
framework that I know of. Crossley makes much of the same corrections as I have made to the theory,
and ends up with a very similar approach to the one that I have adopted, although he is analyzing a
different empirical field (social movements in mental health). Crossley’s reconfigured framework
Thesis | 104
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
takes the original six components and adopts them to a ‘modernized’ analytical framework for inquiry
into social movements. With the changes made it looks as follows:
1) Structural conduciveness (including both resource flows/availability and various ‘opportunity
2) Structural strain, understood as a mismatch between expectations and reality
3) Discursive information and diffusion (which includes frames, theories, ideologies, narratives
of collective self-understanding, and identity)
4) Trigger events (precipitating events)
5) Mobilizing structures (including organizational forms and, most centrally, SMOs)
6) Intervention of third parties
(Crossley 2006:45)135
The theoretical frame presented by Crossley is almost identical with the one we use for analysis here.
Both frameworks are used as open analytical tools for qualitative inquiry that provides an overall
structure and understanding of social movements as complex phenomenon that cannot be reduced to
single-variable causes. Instead, the adopted framework allows for a qualitative interpretation of the
social movement and a multi-variate non-causal analysis. In doing so, we simultaneously abandon all
of the structural-functionalist notions of the old framework and instead we are allowed to incorporate
much more contemporary ideas into the analysis from the current literature. Hence both PPT and RM
can be adapted for analysis ‘inside’ of the overall frame of the value added theory, and we can begin
to disseminate how the 6 concepts are shaped by concrete events and phenomena that have been found
to be influential in these paradigmatic approaches. Organizations, political processes, frames,
emotions, etc. can thus all become part of the inquiry under the overall frame which sole purpose is
to structure the analysis and understanding by outlining the essential aspects for analysis and by
correlating them logically and inferring the relations between these.
This frame essentially short-circuited much of the research that were to follow in the years after
Smelser, in which much energy was spent in the attempt to develop invariant models of social
movements (particularly in the POS paradigmatic approach). Smelser model was valuable because it
It should be noted, that I did not come across the work of Crossley until at the very end of the writing process.
Around June 28, I came across his book while searching the literature and immediately recognized the symmetry
between his and my own work. I have therefore incorporated it into the assignment, though mostly as point of reference,
as it did not contribute particularly to the formation of the theoretical approach (as I only discovered this work after
having already developed my own).
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
demonstrated pretty clearly the multi-dimensional and contextual nature of social movements, it
allowed for organization to be part of mobilization and conduciveness and it posited that collective
behavior was not necessarily irrational.
My suggestions for further work with the framework will be do construct an improved theoretical
model for strain. In this research, I maintained Smelser’s original theory of action based on Parson
and Shills with some degree of success. However, the main difficulties remain with the complexity
of the model for strain that Smelser proposes and, if followed in its entirety, some implications of
Smelser’s theory that do not seem to be accurate. Crossley recognized these issues as well and sought
to update this aspect of the theory too, however, I do not believe that Crossley has proposed a
complete theory yet. I believe the assumption that strain can be conceptualized as a mismatch between
expectations and reality is true but it is of little use for analysis. The reason being that the argument
is dangerously close to a circular logic that will fail to provide much insight if followed in this crude
form. However. I believe that work in this direction may help improve on this aspect of the theory.
Appendix 5: Theoretical contestations of the field
Here follows a discussion of the major contentions in the field of social movement research. Some of
these contentions are more contemporary than others, for instance, few still accept the assumptions
of classical theories regarding nature of participants and emergence of movements. The major
contentions are listed first and then discussed individually and by the end, I review the assumptions
adopted by this research. This appendix is also included to cover the literary review of social
movement literature that has been excluded from the assignment text.
5.1 Emergence of movements
5.2 Distinctions between conventional, collective, and interest-group behavior
5.3 Nature of participants
5.4 Nature of movements
5.5 Dynamics, growth, and spread of movement activity
5.6 Role of organization
5.7 Determinants of movement outcomes
5.8 Structure and agency
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Without delving too profoundly on each theoretical framework and historical developments and
influences here, I will try to outline the position of this research paper in regards to areas of
contentions listed and go into more depths on each contention below.
5.1 Emergence of movements: The emergence of social movements is an area, which is not concluded
and remains an area of contestation with open questions (Morris & Herring 1984; Della Porta & Diani
2006). Though the field has produced various answers to the question how, why, and when social
movements occur, the answers have, for the most part, been only partially explanatory, if not wrong.
In this research, then, this remains an open question which will be contemplated in the light of the
available empirical material collected, and which I will try to address in an organized and structured
manner, though keeping the question open from the outset of the writing. The main contestation here
resides between the classical ‘grand theories’ arguments about rapid change, structural breakdown,
and atomization/mal-integration as the primary causes of social movements and resource
mobilization and political process approaches arguments about pursuits of interests (unattainable
through legitimate institutional organizations). While the classic ‘grand theories’ have been unable to
provide substantial empirical evidence for their claims, the latter views have also had some
shortcomings in providing exhaustively explanatory theories. While pursuits of interests can be
interpreted as either 1) pursuits of own interests (in the utilitarian sense) as well as 2) pursuit of
collective interests, this further muddies the waters a bit. The utilitarian explanation, (1), appears as
lacking in several aspects, and struggling to provide answers in cases that move beyond individuals
pursuing self-interest. The pursuit of collective interests (2) is, perhaps, an even further stretch, as
contrary to what Marx originally defined in his theories on class struggle, even members of the same
‘classes’ may not share the same views, interpretations, goals, preferences, etc. and, therefore,
collective interests, as a unitary concept, loses explanatory power. In between, however, James Jasper
proposes emotions as a starting point for researching the emergence of social movements, as well as
Ferree (1992) proposes a similar analytical concept (the ‘emotional man’) as a starting point for
inquiry into the phenomenon, making emotions the fundamental building blocks for further theorizing
about social movements. Another contemporary approach to social movements, relying on qualitative
approaches is frame analysis, most often incorporated under the PPT analytical approach. The
framing approach takes it points of departure in textual or communicative analyses, focusing on the
way social movements ‘frame’ (i.e. represents) issues in order to explain, among other things, the
origins and motivations of participants (Benford 1997). The approach has contributed with many
valuable insights and, in addition, helped revitalize ideational and constructivist research in social
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
movement studies. In this research, both framing analysis and the emotional approach are considered
valuable contributions, but they are not adopted in this research because empirical the availability of
empirical data has not allowed for it. This is with particular emphasis on the emotional paradigm,
though for the framing perspective, an issue arises as well in that the events took place in a Spanish
speaking Country, with which my language skills are not sufficient, I believe, to perform a proper
analysis of rhetoric and communicational techniques, representations, etc. In this research, then, we
will be focusing more concretely on the insights provided by the PPT paradigm and the RM paradigm.
The RM approach emphasized resources and organization as the most important requirements for
social movements to occur. Later, the PPT approach expanded these assumptions to interpret the
entire political environment as essential to understanding the emergence of social movements. In this
research, we follow the logic of both paradigmatic approaches, and we will try to evaluate how these
aspects have been important for the development of the social movement. While this is not to exclude
or denigrate the knowledge from other kinds of inquiry, this research is simply devised as a case study
focusing on these aspects in particular, however, we will, at the same time, be using the value-added
framework, which will also lead us to investigate the elements outlined by this theory. As a result,
our inquiry will be incorporating the PPT and RM approach under the value-added frame, which we
shall use as a ‘super-structure’, under which to incorporate more ‘specific’ analytical approaches.
While PPT and RM theory have been chosen particularly for this study, there is no particular reason
why other theoretical approaches could not be incorporated under this frame as well. I believe that
both frame analysis , cultural analysis, the emotional approach, and others, can all potentially be
adopted in a study like this one, incorporated inside the value-added frame, and that such approaches
would also be able to contribute with valuable insight (see also Crossley:
5.2 Distinctions between conventional, collective, and interest-group behavior: Distinctions between
different kinds of action remains a central issue of contention in the literature, which is not surprising,
but which is of significant importance. While ‘social movement’ in itself remains a definition of
contention (see point 4), the definition of how to view action inside of the umbrella term of social
movements is contested as well. Another important aspect of this question is whether or not
‘collective action’ (social movement action) and ‘conventional action’ are distinct forms of action or
not. In other words, whether or not a separate theory is needed for each category or if they can be
analyzed using a unifying theory incorporating both kinds. While it has been mostly pertaining to
classical views (Morris & Herring 1984) to view the two categories of action as distinct forms that
cannot be analyzed using the same theoretical framework, most contemporary research argues that
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
this is not the case. This area of contestation is closely tied to the question of whether or not social
movement participation and action should be seen as irrational (classical views) or rational (more
recent views). It follows, that if social movement action is largely irrational, un-conventional, malintegrated, etc. then it has to be analyzed separately from its counter-part: the rational, conventional,
organized, institutional action, and thus a separate theory is required. In this inquiry, we assume that
social movements are rational and that they can be expressions of both institutional and noninstitutional action. In addition, we assume that social movement action can be analyzed using the
same framework as we would for conventional action. We do not attempt to make distinctions
between various kinds of movements or collective action. Although this aspect remains, I believe, a
relatively overlooked aspect of contemporary social movement research, which tends to focus rather
implicitly only on value or norm-oriented movements, of which there is relatively little doubt about
their rational foundation. Instead, the literature tends to focus on formal, organized, coordinated,
movements with considerably ‘logical’ goals.
5.3 Nature of participants: The nature of participants we have already touched upon. Concerning how
the nature of participants should be conceptualized, the empirical evidence should be clear (Morris &
Herring 1984). The claims of classical theories, that movement participants are irrational, malintegrated, suffering from psychological strain or frustration, etc. are unsubstantiated and there are
several studies refuting these claims as well (Keniston 1968; Flacks 1967; Kerpelman 1972;
Abromowitz 1973, etc.). On the contrary, empirical inquiries have proven that movement participants
are both rational and well integrated (Morris 1981; Flacks 1967; Paige 1971; Freeman 1973; Fogelson
& Hill 1968). Put bluntly, none of the classical views’ conceptualizations of movement participants
have been substantiated empirically. However, some debates persist on the topic, for example over
the ‘super-rational’ participant proposed by some utilitarian approaches (more specifically views that
emphasize ‘complete information’ and/or ‘complete rationality’ on behalf of movement participants).
The questions of this topic have also shifted towards ‘when people are going to participate in
movements?’ (For instance Granovetter’s ‘threshold theory’ (Granovetter 1978) and Olson’s
prominent formulation of the ‘free-rider’ issue (Olson 1965)).
In this research we follow the notion of the rational participant but not the utilitarian logic of
participation. While the utilitarian approach provides some explanatory force under particularly
utilitarian conditions, this approach is limited because of its focus on game-theory, rationality (and,
in some cases, ‘supra-rationality’) and self-interest. I follow James Jasper more closely in his
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
conceptualization of movement participants as ‘emotional actors’, using emotions as the fundamental
building blocks for a theory of action, rather than the utilitarian logic, originally adopted from microeconomics. This conceptualization emphasizes emotions as fundamental building blocks for
understanding action (and thus social movement participation), but is not seen as undermining the
notions of rationality of movement participants. Indeed, movement participants are as rational as
non-participants, which is also the reason why both kinds of actions can be analyzed and incorporated
in the same theoretical framework. However, this conceptualization denies the possibility of
‘complete information’ (posited by some utilitarian approaches), as well as any certain knowledge of
outcomes of the movement participation and other action, which somewhat undermines utilitarian
game theory conceptualizations (as practice tends to be far more complex than game theory posits it
to be). Indeed, in this approach, emphasizing emotions, a feeling of doing ‘the right thing’ is given
more explanatory power than utilitarian conceptualizations of ‘optimizing one’s own benefits’.
5.4 Nature of movements: Another, sometimes forgotten issue of social movement definitions concern
the nature of social movements and the empirical field of inquiry. This relates to the contestations
over the nature of participants above and concerns which kinds of movements are to be studied and
how to conceptualize a social movement in the first place. The classic approaches, usually guided by
the psychological school of collective behavior, conceptualized movement in terms of irrationality or
dysfunctional behavior. Smelser adds to this legacy, for instance, in arguing that generalized believes
are ‘akin to magic’ –like superstitions or short-circuits of rationality (Smelser 1962). However,
whereas the traditional approaches were focused on movements also in terms of ‘fads’, ‘crazes’,
hostile outbursts’, ‘religious revivals’, etc. contemporary research has been focused more on
movements in terms of the rational and integrated movements focused explicitly on societal issue that
are very rationally identified and fought against. In the collective behavior approach, irrationality is
in this way explained because attention is attributed to a specific kind of movement, which seem
altogether different from the kinds of movements under study in later research. With the notion of
SMOs and a shift of focus away from the peculiar movements that was the traditional center of focus,
social movement research discovered a new field of inquiry, which concerned the ‘rational
movement’ and its organization, arrangement, execution, allocation of resources and strategizing. We
may say that the ‘political movement’ was born (at least in theoretical terms that it had been absent
from until around the beginning of the 1970ies). The conceptualization of social movements,
however, seems to be in peril of distinguishing between these variations in the type of social
movements. In contemporary research, little attention is given to this aspect of conceptualization and
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
it appear more or less tacitly understood that social movement research, today, deals with the political
movement and does little to attempt to move beyond covering this area. Historically, one of the most
important contributions of Smelser’s work was to recognize that collective behavior and institutional
behavior could be analyzed using the same analytical framework (Morris & Herring 1984: 17). This
was a step towards later conceptualizations of the rational participant though it still took some time
before this idea was thoroughly developed in the literature. However, movement type and
classification seems to have largely left the literature, though at times it resurfaces as a critique of the
RM or PPT approach, arguing that researchers of this field are prone to be studying political interest
groups rather than social movements. In this research, we will not address this intricacy. We adopt
the PPT and RM approaches and study a single movement that adheres to the general RM and PPT
movement definitions136.
5.5 Dynamics, growth, and spread of movement activity: Explaining dynamics, growth, and spread of
movement activity has been a daunting task for the classical theories that have only provided theories
with limited explanatory power to explain the dynamics of the movement development. Those that
rely on ‘life-cycle’ and ‘natural history’ formulations have not been able to provide concrete insight
into these dynamics, whereas the resource mobilization view has provided more detailed empirical
studies into the dynamics, growth and spread of social movements. The empirically supported
formulations provided by the resource mobilization view have shown that movement spread is
mobilized through friendship and familial and organizational networks that precede movement
activities (Freeman, 1973; Morris 1981; Gamson; 1975; McCarthy & Zald; 1973). Other explanations
such as imitation (Tarde 1903), suggestion (Le Bon 1960), circular reaction (Blumer 1951), emergent
norms (Turrner 1964) and contagion (Lang & Lang 1961), have been challenged by researchers
working inside the collective behavior paradigm (McPhail 1973; McPhail & Wohlstein 1983), as well
as by researchers working inside the resource mobilization paradigm (Freeman 1973; Morris 1981;
Molotch 1979). Many studies have shown that the central ideas of the resource mobilization view are
empirically supported and that these are a central aspect of social movement growth and spread. These
include leadership, know-how, strategizing and planning (Morris & Herring 1984).
This evaluation extends the reflection in Caniglia & Carmin (2010) and I refer to their definition os social
movements as well: “…any civil-society organization that aligns its ‘goals with the preferences of a social movement or
countermovement and attempts to implement those goals’”.
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Master’s thesis
5.6 The role of organization: The classical views on organization in relation to social movements are
principally either that organization is an ‘after-the-fact’ (i.e. outcome) of social movements, or that
organization is counter-productive to social movements (i.e. an obstruction- however, Piven &
Cloward (1973) did a prominent inquiry into organization as an obstacle to the use of disruptive action
in which they showed that the role of organization is more profound than a yes/no formulation).
Contemplating the most general findings of organization in social movements, it seems much more
relevant to ask ‘which kind of organization?’ rather than ‘if organization’. The studies available from
the RM paradigm have indicated, that organization is important to social movement outcome and
mobilization (Morris 1981; Gamson 1980; Freeman 1973; Gerlach & Hine 1970; Aveni 1978), and
that different kinds of organization interacts with social movement strategies, goals pursued, nature
of memberships, and other factors in determining the relative success of the social movement.
5.7 Determinants of movement outcomes: The research in the field has contributed with insight into
various factors that are important to movement outcomes, however, it is still unclear exactly how they
interrelate and what their relative importance is. The ‘life-cycle’ approach, at best, can be considered
incomplete, and although the resource mobilization view has provided considerable further
knowledge on factors that influence movement outcomes, these theories are still also incomplete in
providing answers to the more subtle dynamics between these factors and their relative importance.
Some examples of empirical research into this area can be highlighted with Gamson (1975) who
showed that reaching specific and tangible movement-related goals, formal acceptance, using
selective incentives, establishing narrowly defined goals, and using tactics of disobedience are all
factors related to social movement outcome. These findings are considerable, even though the
observations were disputed by Goldstone (1980), who argued that Gamson’s analytical method of
testing bi-variate relationships was insufficient, and that when testing for multi-variate relationships
(using political context and the nature of goals for controlling) the relationships deducted by Gamson
disappeared. Similarly, Piven & Cloward’s research made conclusions contrary to Gamson’s when
they found that poor people’s movements achieved their goals though mass disobedience rather than
organization. Their observation that mass-disobedience in itself can help obtain goals, has been
empirically supported as well (Isaac & Kelley 1981); albeit, contrary to Piven & Cloward’s thesis, in
other situations organization helped social movements obtain their goals (Morris 1981 & 1984;
McAdam 1982). As such, like in the case of Gamson’s research, the results have proven fruitful,
albeit inconclusive. Other factors have been researched as well such as the availability of leadership
skills, know-how and other resources (Gamson et al. 1982), the nature of repression/facilitation by
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Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
authorities (Marx 1974 & 1979; Oberschall 1978; Tilly 1978), as well as a number of tactics and
strategies appears likely to promote movement outcomes. In short, the prevalent factors influencing
movement outcomes that have been empirically supported are organization, resources, strategies, and
the nature of repression/facilitation -depending on the goals pursued by the social movement.
However, the relationships between each variable, the dynamics as well as the relative importance of
each are still not documented profoundly.
5.8 Structure and agency: the most recent debate concerns a paradigmatic turn away from structural
theories towards theories of agency. Whereas most classical theories as well as resource mobilization
views rely on structural explanations of social movements, few incorporate a theory of action, and
the ones that do usually apply a utilitarian logic to explain social movements inside of their structural
theoretical frameworks. While the debate of structure vs. agency is not limited to the area of social
movements but pertains, I believe, to most of the humanities, it is still an important aspect of the
research into social movements. Jasper argues that rather than earlier times’ top-down deductive
approaches, modern inquiry into social movements rely more closely on bottom-up theorizing that
“allows researchers to build from the micro-level to the macro-level in a more empirical way rather
than deductively from the top down.” (Jasper 2010: 1). Jasper argues that from the 1970’ies onwards,
approaches trying to synthesize between theories of structure and theories of action saw various
formulations, starting from Gidden’s, Touraine, Bourdieu and Habermas’ attempts at synthesis
(through the development of practice theory), towards cultural theories incorporating theoretical
concepts of framing and later of narrative as the primary focus of analysis. He characterizes this as
“a swing of the pendulum… back towards creativity and agency, culture and meaning, emotion and
morality…” (ibid. p. 6) -aspects that had been subdued during the years of structuralism. Today,
researchers are turning towards theories of meaning and action rather than structural explanations,
focusing on the micro-aspects rather than the macro-aspects to build from the bottom-up rather than
from the top-down. It is important to recognize, however, that both paradigmatic approaches
(structural and agency oriented) are fruitful paradigms that have provided insight into the field, and
that this overview is intended merely to provide insight into current and historical research
In a short model overview, Crossley (2006: 10) illustrates the overarching paradigmatic approaches
and their geographical relations in a simple model:
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Appendix 6: Further elaboration on the research process and progression
6.1 Research overview
The process of the case study is summed up in the following schema. The schema is revised iteratively
in correspondence with the development of the research to improve readability and to leave out
irrelevant explications of plans that maybe did not develop exactly as they were intended, changes of
said plans, etc.
The large demonstrations of
June 2015 Guatemala are on-going (Started in
April). The case is chosen for the
thesis project of 2016. Otto Perez
Molina and Roxanna Baldetti are
still governing the country in spite
of the revelations by the CICIG of
the ‘la linea’ case and increasing
social movement activity and
mounting pressure.
June 2015 Case is solidified as a topic for the
thesis. Travel to Guatemala is
arranged. Case monitoring is
Practical notes
Theoretical notes
Participate in LA studies at
AAU following my stream.
Ending stream with a report on
Brazil’s foreign policy in recent
introduction to LA studies.
In principle the ‘crucial
point’ where movement
participation would have
been optimal (particularly
November 2015). This was,
however, not possible for this
research. This is the peak of
the demonstration of 2015
where more than 100.000
citizens demonstrate on the
national square.
Between June and December
2015 both Roxanna Baldetti
and Oscar Perez resigns from
the respective seats as
president and vice-president
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Master’s thesis
developments and news on the
December Meeting with professor Julia
discussing topic (course teacher),
Preliminary formulation is handed
in for the thesis, ending 9th semester
and travel to GT. Case monitoring
is increased daily newspaper
observations (starting December
13th) and observation is moved
center stage.
of GT (on May 8th and
September 2nd, respectively)
and are immediately indicted
for various acts of corruption
and taken into ‘preventive
prison’ or custody while the
trial is on-going, to prevent
them from fleeing the
country (as has happened in
various cases).
Here theoretical sampling and
readings are also begun
including background reading
on GT and historical roots of
the country, culture, conflict
etc. Though I had begun
reading much before, here is
where time allowed me to delve
deeper in to these readings and
increase them further. Further it
should be noted that I stayed
with my in-laws throughout the
time in GT and discussed the
case with has many people as I
could on a ‘daily level’ in order
to try an position myself with
them and their experience of
the events.
By this time the large-scale
demonstrations have died out
demonstrations for various
causes still occur, albeit with
some regularity. Alejandro
Maldonado (former president
of congress) has become
between the resignation of
Otto Perez and the election
and admittance of the
country’s newly elected
president Jimmy Morales.
This has somewhat ‘cooled
things down’ while the
population seems to be
generally awaiting what will
happen next with the
Jimmy Morales, comedianturned-politician, for a small,
largely unnoticed party
campaign almost only based
on not being a thief or corrupt
(literally what his election
posters said). In the next-tolast election rounds he beat
out Manuel Baldizón who
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Master’s thesis
was the expected candidate
for the presidential post.
Inquiry in GT continues. Most of
the time is spent researching
practical aspects of the situation
and national organizations and
institutions. I had the chance to visit
various places as well such as the
green palace where the peace treaty
was signed in 1996. News are still
reviewed on a daily basis as well as
developments of the social
movement. I continue to read on
GT history and to read on the social
movement and the organizations
involved in the movement (such as
#RenunciaYa and other)
Hand-in date of July 31st is
approved from the university.
Preliminary research overview
and description is handed in (1
pager) and approved.
As Jimmy Morales is
entering his presidential
and issues remain to fix.
Corruption is still reported
almost daily in the news, as
well as an alarmingly high
rate of impunity for political
and financial corruption
(97% - down from 99.5% in
2008). Additionally the
entire public sector is
funding (healthcare, schools,
police, infrastructure, etc.)
and the fiscal revenues are
absent (with both an
increasingly large fiscal gaps
and increasing difficulties in
the SAT of collecting
prospected tax revenues).
This has not fostered largescale demonstrations, with
the only exception being
demonstrations by the largest
trade union of teachers in the
country and similar-sized
demonstration from public
hospital employees.
February continues this line. I
finish an outstanding exam from
the university on the 23rd as well
and have the supervisor for the
thesis assigned (Martin Bak
Jørgensen). I establish contact with
Martin and start to discuss further
Planning the research design
and having a supervisor
assigned helped clear many
questions which allowed better
for reading into the theoretical
aspects and for exploring
research design, methodology
Situation is much like
January, while Morales is
only just revealing his
choices for the cabinet and
for other official posts. FCNNación has gained increasing
influence in congress tough
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details of PB, RQ’s and research
design. This leads to further
readings into social movement
theory and a re-reading into cultural
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
and methods, angle, etc. I had
some unanswered questions
formulations, etc. that could not
be solved until the sparring
process with a supervisor was
initiated. Having done so, the
research design and PB cold be
established and the initial
writings started.
an influx of officials from
several cases of controversy
are still appearing, also in
connection with Jimmy
Morales (for instance the
case of public-contractorturned-minister,
Ordoñéz and Jimmy Morales
choices of officials for his
cabinet and for public posts
(criticized avidly for being
favors). Meanwhile, further
public dept is approved while
fiscal revenue is still not
improving and several public
assets are in serious need of
funds (especially public
hospitals which I got to see
for myself).
No major demonstrations
have occurred, however.
Return from GT on March 15th.
Writing process is initiated and
writing on theoretical chapters and
methodology is in process.
Correspondence with Martin Bak
Jørgensen is kept up and the GT
news are kept covered for further
developments in the political
landscape. At the moment, the
movement seems to have lost
momentum, and although there are
still many smaller mobilizations for
various causes, there is nothing the
like of the demonstrations of 2015.
During the stay I have ensured Judgement has still not been
to establish contact with as passed on Baldetti and
many people as possible in Molina.
order to pavethe way for further
interviews if necessary and for
asking questions to persons
who have been involved with
and participated in the social
movements though direct
empirical data has been
difficult to obtain because of a
lack of concrete research
design until February. All
sources have, however, been
noted as well as the history
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Master’s thesis
been inquired much closer.
This also provided a unique
opportunity to experience not
motivations, involvement with
and pride of the movement, but
also to experience daily life in
GT and to get a glimpse of its
many intricacies that would
have been impossible from
Theoretical and methodological
collaboration with Martin B.
Jørgensen. Further Empirical
collection ensues. Chapters on
empirical data, theory of science
and introduction should also be
completed by the end of this month.
I returned to Denmark but
continued empirical sampling
from DK. This proved a
difficult task, though I was able
to secure much data primarily
from internet sources and from
social media. Through these I
extended my connection and
demonstrations, and their
From April I began focusing
on developing an analytical
framework to guide the
analysis. I had been reading
up on the literature since my
first meeting with Martin in
February, but I had still not
concluded with which lines
of inquiry to proceed.
Moving towards May I
started developing what was
to be the final analytical
framework by Neil Smelser,
though at this stage it was
still a crude frame. Many
revisions were made before I
had reached the final version
incorporated in the report.
Particularly the final fit with
RM and PPT and the general
lines to follow when all three
paradigms were united in a
single analytical framework.
May 2016 Data collection continues but
should be finished by the end of this
month for subsequent analysis to
Data collection through April,
March and May remained a
high priority along with the
Through the months of April
and May, however, I decrease
The final framework was
finished during May and the
initiated at this time. I still
had to make revisions now
and again between empirical
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June 2016 Data analysis and chapters on
analysis, conclusion and discussion
are written. Report should have a
‘finalized’ form though not being
‘completed’ yet. Time is left open
for making corrections and for
improving wordings, writings,
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
the focus on empirical
developing the theoretical
frame subsequently which
meant that theory and data
became increasingly linked and
I could prepare for the
analytical part in more detail.
At this stage my observations
were still quite unconnected
and ‘scattered’ because of my
lack of a clear theoretical frame
which also meant I, perhaps,
sampled more empirical data
than was strictly necessary and
also sampled in less than
optimal ways, due to a lack of
methodological focus.
observations and theoretical
with regards to the analysis
of strain and conducive
structures. Which proved to
be the most difficult to wrap
my head around, both
analytically. I suggest in the
discussions that a further
revision of the theoretical
modelling of strain would
probably beneficial to further
framework and I believe this
point to be true, which is why
I mention it here again.
Practically, the analytical
process is undertaken in this
month along with writing of the
assignment. The goal is to have
a more or less finished draft
approximately by July 7t and to
have all questions cleared as
my supervisor is leaving for
vacation. The writing is
condensed in two three
theoretical and methodological
conclusions, and revisions. The
two former were the important
aspects to finish before July 7th,
as well as discussions of
questions related to the
formalities of the assignmenet.
At this point in time it will be
difficult to include analysis
of newer developments (for
achievements/regresses of
society in the aftermath of the
social uprisings. This is
because the hand-in date of
the thesis is drawing too near
to make further changes to
the paper.
The theoretical framework
for analysis was finished by
June and I did most of the
analytical parts throughout
the month of June. Although
most of my observations and
completion of the final
theoretical framework, the
theory eventually helped
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
observations into a coherent
analysis and dissemination of
the case.
July 2016
Thesis is handed in on July 31st.
during the month, final revisions
are done: grammar, readability,
ordering, formatting, designs, etc.
Case is followed up and revisited
last times to compare results with
‘reality’, contemporary state, future
prospects, and directions for further
throughout the month along
with fact-checking and design
improvements (for instance
assignment, changing lay-out,
and the structural presentation).
The final report is printed and
handed in on July 28th.
July was primarily spent
improvement and to doublecheck my conclusions and
observations. The research
was more or less finalized by
this time, but finishing the
report was time consuming
and still needed much work
to present a well-written
6.2 analytical process and relationship between data an theory
The procedural development of the research and relationship between data and theory is an iterative
process guided by the abductive reasoning elaborated above. This means, bluntly put, that the research
has been neither guided by theory (deductively) nor has theory been the desired outcome of research
(inductive). Rather, theory has been an integral part in guiding the inquiry not seen as definite premise
(as is typically the case in deductive research approaches). Theory, instead, is viewed as revisable,
open for empirical testing and open for elaboration and development based on empirical discoveries
and support. Theoretical assumptions, then, are revisable, which requires an iterative movement
between empirical data and theoretical assumptions.
In order to accommodate this argued procedure of investigation I approached the social movement of
Guatemala through several ‘stages’ of development during the research. These have been outlined in
the section ‘research overview’ (3.2.1) below in a schematic overview, but I will provide a simplified
account here of the implications of an iterative relationship between data and theory. This account is
not exhaustive and does not address particularly intricate questions, but should, hopefully, give an
idea of how the iterative approach has been influential in the development of the theoretical and
methodological application.
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Master’s thesis
First, I engaged with the social movements at a level of interest and planning. At this stage no
theoretical foundations or contemplations were involved in relation to SMO research and my own
engagement was primarily directed because of interest rather than research. However, at this stage
(around April 2015 when the movements began), I realized the potential and significance of
researching the movements as well. Sadly I was unable to visit Guatemala and get ‘a closer
involvement’ with the movements at this point in time, but I received numerous accounts from my
family and friends in the country and followed the developments closely on various media outlets.
From around June 2015 I started planning the research project; however, at this point still no
theoretical elements were incorporated in analyzing the movement or selecting empirical data. I
started collecting data and following the movement from the onset in order to develop a
comprehensive insight and knowledge about the case in an ad hoc approach, relying on the general
data sources available and commonly accessed sources. This was done in order to develop and
understanding of the case sympathetic to movement participants and citizens of GT and as closely
related to the general population’s perception as I could. Albeit direct participation and similar ethno
methodological research methodologies would have been preferable to meet this end it was not
possible to apply such methods as I could not travel to GT at the time. However, I have stayed in GT
for longer periods on several occasions because I have family in the country, which has provided
much insight into the lives and conditions of the people of the country137.
However, not until the second stage, did theory become a significant aspect of my development of
understanding the case. While this stage was still prior to the research process, I started contemplating
political and social theories in relation to the case in question on how these influenced societal
conditions, the political landscape, macro-economic factors, impunity, corruption, and so on. This
engaged my thoughts with many theoretical aspects from international relations to political economy
over sociological and cultural, but which were all to be revised again later in the process.
At the third stage, I took a substantial step back towards the first approach, focusing closely on the
development of the case first-hand as I gained the opportunity to go to GT in December 2015 to stay
there until March 14th 2016. At this ‘leap’ I returned to look at the practicalities, the imminent
situation as I would experience it being in the country where the events had taken place and where
The extent of which, of course, is debatable. This is also the reason why it is not included in the assignment as
empirical data nor as support for arguments made. However, I have used this knowledge in order to find other sources
of information that are or could be used for argumentation in the assignment. One example practical example is the
inefficiency of public health care which I have witnessed first-hand in the country. However, in any argument
concerning this aspect I use statistics to substantiate the claim, not personal observations.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
the movement had now subsided but never the less many demonstrations still occurs. Theory was put
in the back while I was waiting for further counseling with my supervisor and a more concrete
framework could be set up. I again focused on ad hoc sources of information and focused on gathering
as much knowledge as possible without a particular framework rather than working inside a special
At the fourth stage, my supervisor was picked and a more exact framework was to be established as
well a more concrete methodology for the actual research. Until this point my inquiries had been
‘unguided’ by methodological and theoretical premises and merely been led by the practical
circumstances and contextual development of the case. As such I had to return to theory and this time
around to a more concrete body of theories. I turned towards SMO theory in particular at this point
and reviewed the literature from the onset beginning with Marx’s theories of social revolution to more
contemporary theories such as Jasper’s emotional, action-oriented approach.
After reviewing the literature of social research I had to go back to the case to review both
methodological implications and case-specific implications for theoretical choices and in order to
develop a specific approach to my analysis and to the use and application of theory. Again this
involved a look at the data available, the appropriateness of theory in relation to the specific case and
the questions that could realistically be answered with the available data and theory. Again this meant
iteration between data and theory and this time around also methodology.
Even as the research progressed, I was obligated to reconsider and reaffirm relationships between
theory and empirical observations on many occasions. Specially in relation to Smelser’s theories of
strain, but also between the overarching framework and empirical observations, for instance which
empirical observations belonged to which category (or categories) in the overall frame of analysis. I
should stress that this has importance both for theoretical and empirical concepts as the interpretation
of the theory in relation to empirical data is a mutually influential process. For instance, which
empirical observations can be understood in terms of conduciveness for the social movement? How
far should the theoretical concept be ‘stretched’ in regards to empirical observations? These questions
have not been easy to answer, and to analyze which empirical factors have had influence on the
conduciveness, i.e. the overall frame in which the social movement is set, has not been an easy task.
Notwithstanding, I have only included some aspects in this research where others may have chosen
to incorporate more (or other aspects). The final analysis presented in this paper has undergone many
such iterations before its final form was concluded.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
What I have sought to illustrate through this account, is how the iterative approach shaped the
relationship between data and theory in the initial stages of the research by going back and forth
between the two. It should be noted, that this is merely a simplified account of a simple aspect of this
process, and that the iterative process is not limited to this aspect of the research process or design.
This approach has also been very influential in developing the analysis’ sensibility towards casespecific circumstances and contextual particularities because it has allowed for a qualitative
‘openness’ incorporated in its design by not making either theory or data the guiding aspects of the
research. I believe this is an important aspect of the qualitative case study, exactly because the case
specific parameters may be of increased significance.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Appendix 7 images related to the social movements of GT 2015
Screenshot of the original Renuncia Ya facebook invitation for the 1st demonstrations on April 25th
Picture of the ‘Plaza Publica’ during one of the large mobilizations of 2015
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Official announcements of stores closing in solidarity on August 27th, 2015. More than
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
A protestor with the number 105 written on his hand. 105 is the number of votes needed in the
congress to revoke the president’s immunity. The congress voted 132 for revoking the immunity of
Molina by the beginning of September.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Appendix 8: Smelser’s theoretical models for analysis
Smelser’s tables of abstraction of values and norms.
Smelser (1964) presents a couple of classificatory schemas. Two of these concerns norms and values
though he also presents other tables in his work. The importance of these tables is to illustrate the
levels of abstraction adopted when discussing values and norms. Smelser argues that all components,
at the highest level of abstraction (1), are almost void of meaning because a value (say freedom) is
not defined in any operational terms until we move down the ladder of abstraction. As w do so, we
make our notion of freedom more concrete by relating it to, for instance, institutional setting, other
values, operationalization of the values in terms of rewards, etc. Smelser provides an example in the
table of how a translation of the value of ‘freedom’ progress through the various stages of abstraction
from the most abstract; simply a
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Table 1: levels of specificity of values
Commitment to the value of freedom, to the most concrete manifestation of this value in terms of the
legitimization of the value for the expenditure of effort. The same ‘transformation’ occurs with
regards to the table of norms, where the same principles guide the definition of a norm from the
highest level of abstraction to the most concrete level of practical application.
Table 2: levels of specificity of norms
The general idea of the framework, which will be found in its entirety in table 5 below, is to create a
superstructure that govern all the ‘movement’ inside. That is to say, Smelser has devised the
framework to illustrate a logical progression through various elements of society. In the assignment
his thesis is confirmed in our findings, but we should explicate how the framework is intended to be
read. When reading the model, the logical inference is that wherever a structural strain is identified,
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
that strain will have ‘move’ both downwards and to the right. So for instance, in our case we found
values level 6 to be the dominant focus of strain of the social movement in our analysis. Thus, strain
‘moves’ downwards (to values level 7) and ‘right’ to all categories on this side of where we have
identified the ‘highest level’ of strain.
In the overviews provided Smelser he also provides ‘economic examples’ (table examples 1-4) to
give an idea of the meanings intended in the theory. Due to lack of space, we will not go into detail
here on every aspect of the theory, but it is well elaborated in Smelser’s book.
Table 3: levels of specificity of mobilization
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Table 4: levels of specificity of situational facilities
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Table 5: levels of specificity of components of social action
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Appendix 9: Timeline reconstruction of social movement of 2015
Note: timetable span from 1990 to 2016
1990: Myrna Mack is killed by a government death squad138
1993: Otto Pérez Molina and Roxanna Baldetti meet for the first time under
peculiar circumstances. Former Guatemalan president, Jorge Serrano Elias was
attempting to dissolve the congress (CC) and Supreme court (CSJ) illegally and
Baldetti was in charge of censoring the media during the events. At the same time,
Molina led a group of soldiers – some now in his cabinet - who were opposing the
coup. Serrano was forced to esign his presidency when the corruption scandal
became public and Baldetti was charged for stealing materials from the pressroom.
Molina was put in charge of Baldetti’s case, but the charges against her were
dropped without explantion139.
1996: At the beginning of Arzú’s presidential the ‘caso moreno’ was also agued to
have lifted some of its governmental influence. At the time the ‘shadowy’ network
of militaries (primarily) and other influential Guatemalan elites were assumed to
possess a great deal of political power while running an almost ‘parallel
government’ to the official state140. It is at times argued, that this shadow network
draw lines all the way up to today’s political crisis, involving Molina, Baldetti and
others, formerly, involved with the same corruption ring141 142.
January 14th: Álvaro Arzú assumes presidency as the 32nd president of Guatemala
and the first president after the peace accords that would be signed the same year.
He is still leader of GT City and has been for a total period of 20 years (he was
elected for his third consecutive period as mayor of GT city in 2012). Executions
returned as a political practice during Arzús time in office with 3 people being
executed in total. The practice ended again under Portillo, though 2 people were
executed during his time in office143. However, Álvaro Colom reinstated the death
penalty though it does not seem to have been effectuated since the presidential
period of Portillo.
February 26th: personally met with the URGN (guerillas) in Mexico. After this a
ceasefire followed on March 20th.
March 20th: A ceasefire is achieved in the national conflict.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
December 29th: The final peace accords are signed.
April 26th: Archbishop Juan José Gerardi Conedra is brutally murdered. He was
shot in the head where after his skull and face was crushed. He could only be
identified by his bishop ring. The following investigations were highly obscured by
a large campaign of disinformation/propaganda144, not least because the murder
was staged to look as a domestic crime. The case dragged on for a long while but
with many troubles in finding bringing justice for the murder. In the end captain
Byron Lima Oliva and retired cornel Byron Lima Estrada (son and father
respectively) were imprisoned for their involvement. Byron Lima later went on to
be part of corruption scandals even from inside prison. In the case, another murder
of a suspected witness was also documented (see in 2014). Gerardi was presumably
murdered for his leading role in producing the unprecedented human rights report
“Guatemala: never again”145 146 147. Analysts commonly view the report as a threat
to the established military forces operating in Guatemala, and the release of it
might erode the military hold on GT political power. This turned out to be the case
as well, as the army was subsequently accused, based on indictments from the UN
Truth Committee, for crimes against humanity148 - specifically for having waged
genocide against the indigenous Mayan populations of the country, however, few
prosecutions were finalized through Guatemala’s judicial system, which was still
intimidated and corrupted by military power (the case of Rios Montt, perhaps, the
most recent and telling case).
In addition, Fransisco Goldman argued in ‘Who killed the bishop149’ that Otto
Pérez Molina was involved in the murder as well, based witness testimonies from a
central witness in the case (long before Molina was elected president).
Around this year, the MP tries the first cases against what is to be known as the
‘Moreno smuggling ring’ which is operating out of the harbors of Guatemala. It is
the same ring that President Molina is suspected to have been cooperating with in
the Caso La Línea in 2015. The ring was never exactly disbanded as the charges
were never followed through, possibly because of an implication with the ‘to be
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
president’ Portillo (2000-2004) as well as former military president Rios Montt150.
In 1999 the MP presented a hearing of Fransisco Javier Ortiz who had risen to
become an administrator both in the Moreno smuggling ring in 1999 as well as in
the La Línea case in 2015. His trajectory also paints a fitting illustration of the
development of corruption in GT throughout the period.
Moreno, the man behind the original customs smuggling ring, in charge of the GT
custosm from the beginning of the 1980’ies as well as a part of the army where he
rose to a prominent position as part of the Army Intelligence Unit. The army was,
at the time, in control of the country’s customs in order to prevent the guerillas
from obtaining weaponry from international supporters, but they also saw a chance
to make profits from themselves through various elicit schemes in the custom
ports. During the 1980ies the militaries ‘controlled everything and Moreno was the
man who connected the militaries with the civil population, operators in customs,
the treasury, the police, and the judiciary’. At this point Moreno, who came to be
one of the leaders of the criminal network, met with the army major Luis Fransisco
Ortega Menaldo who was also son-in-law to the former president Carlos Manuel
Arana Osorio.
The Menaldo smuggling ring came to be known as ‘La Cofradia’ (the brotherhood
– one among several similar groupings. These are called ‘CIACS’ in Spanish –
Illegal Clandestine Security Apparatuses151) came to light in 1996. Their influence
started declining after 1993 when Menaldo started losing political influence due to
his involvement in an attempted ‘self-coup’ staged by former president Serrano.
Ortiz, however, who again testified in 2015, have shed light on trajectories of these
criminal networks following their uncovering in the 1990ies. He argues that they
grew even more entangled with the political apparatus under the presidency of
Portillo (2000-2004) where they obtained ‘direct political participation’. Menaldo
had lost considerable power by the time Portillo obtained his presidency but after
having lost in 1996, he obtained the presidency in 2000 backed by corrupt funding.
It is assumed that although Menaldo had no official position during the Portillo
presidency, that he was a close adviser to the president. Both Portillo and Rios
Montt had been identified as members of the Moreno network and Ortiz ‘labeled
them as members of the highest ranking group that directed the criminal network:
the Salvavidas group152’, of which Moreno was the President. With the election of
President Portillo and the FRG party, the clandestine networks blocked all
prosecutions against criminal organizations and were able to expand their
operations. From extortions, customs fraud, and container robbery the criminal
organization now also incorporated money laundering, weapons shipments, and
drug shipments now became part of their activities. The involvement of President
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Portillo in the corrupt networks were also stated by the former prosecutor Fransisco
Mendizabal, who pointed direction particularly to the massive money transfers
delivered to the former president from the corrupt networks (Q50.000 for the FRG
party and Q20.000 for the president every 15 days).
Importantly, Mendizabal also accounted on the prosecution charges, at the time it
seemed an insurmountable task to even begin the prosecutions against the ‘allpowerful’ criminal networks who controlled so abundant means of funding and
influence in the political sphere and besides ‘who could investigate the president?’.
Under the government of Álvaro Arzú, a new criminal network emerged,
seeing an opportunity in the vacuum left after the decline of the Moreno network
from the middle of the 1990ies. The CIAC came to known as ‘the syndicate’. The
syndicate differed from the Brotherhood in arguing for stabilization and
pacification in the war against the guerillas instead of ‘total war’ as argued by the
Brotherhood (in which Rios Montt was a leading member). One of the leading
members of the syndicate was Otto Perez Molina who, as we know, became
president in 2010. This change in strategy led to a ‘low-intensity warfare’ with the
guerillas and eventually led to the peace accords signed in 1996 (under Álvaro
Arzú’s presidency).
However, the military transition and power relations did not lead to any outright
confrontation between the military interests in the state. The process was rather
described as ‘a gradual transition with new faces in the capacity to share state
wealth without rivalries.’
The similarities between the corrupt structures in the customs, to a large extent,
runs parallel between the two cases (the Moreno network and the La Línea case)
and some operators were even reinstated (Ort’iz a particular case in point. With 18
years of experience in ‘the business’).
However, an important difference between the cases was that the Moreno
network used violence and murder to keep ‘order in the ranks of the structure’
whereas the La Línea networked used more of a ‘business ideology’ to maintain a
‘value-base’ for the operation of the network. The corrupt network, in one
example, simply threatened to move to a different port if the complicit in the lower
ranks did not follow the orders of Monzón (on top of the new structure).
The corruption, according to the report reproduced in Insight Crime, is starting to
look more like a hydra than a dragon. Whereas the former criminal structures
where more ‘one-sided’, specialized perhaps, the new structures are widespread
and horizontal. They don’t use force and violence but a business-like approach to
maintaining order in the ranks and keeping organization in place. The case of La
Línea was correctly predicted as being only one amongst many heads of the hydra
– exemplified by Ortiz and his multi-facetted involvement with corruption in
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Guatemala (and later, now, can be exemplified by Molina and Baldetti and their
extensive involvement with multiple corrupt structures throughout the state of
Guatemala). The same conclusion is drawn in about the CIACS in general in a
different piece by Insight Crime; it is argued that viewing the CIACS as the
expression of corruption in GT is outdated, simply because the CIACS have
outgrown their former roles and created or obtained new ones153. They have
‘blended with various criminal enterprises, formed their own, or tried to become
legitimate political and economic actors… the CIACS themselves are symbols of
how power works in Guatemala: via a mafia-like control over the levers of
government bureaucracy’.
In connection with the cases of corruption, former president Alfonso Portillo was
eventually extradited to the US where he served 1½ years on charges of money
laundering (a relatively lenient conviction) and he returned to GT in 2015154.
The co-opting of the state was later crystalized in a case uncovered by the CICIG
in 2016, of the same name (caso cooptacion del estado)155.
January 14th: Alfonso Portillo (FRG – Frente Republicano de Guatemala)
assumes presidency of GT. His first scandal occurred in 2002 when he and his Vice
President, Juan Fransisco Reyes, were caught transferring large sums abroad, a
case known as the ‘Panama Connection’156 157 158 (also implicating a couple other
high-level officials). Impressively Portillo remained in GT politics until the
present, now in the ‘TODOS’ party, having been part of 5 parties in total). He was
charged in 2014 in the United states for money laundering after a very long process
of failed prosecutions against him, but he regained freedom already a year after159.
He pleaded guilty to the charges in order to mitigate them and was charged for the
laundering of upwards of $70 (Q490 million).
In 2002 the US pulled Ortega Menaldo’s Visa to the US because of the mounting
evidence of his involvement with illicit activities (including money laundering and
narcotic-trafficking). He was not indicted in neither the US or GT.
July 13th: Peréz Molina and Baldetti establish the political party ‘Partido Patriota’
(PP). the party is a neo-conservative party (sometimes also called neo-liberal)
championing a liberal economic policy and granting concessions to the military.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Otto Peréz is himself a ‘retired general’ from the internal conflict, and there are
several allegations of his involvement in grave human rights violations during his
period as a military general160 161 162 and implicated in the case of judge Edgar
Ramiro Elías aldez163. In addition he was trained at the notorious164 165 military
‘School of the Americas’ in 1985166 (now re-named ‘western hemisphere institute
for security cooperation’).
To-be president, Álvaro Colom, is investigated for illicit transfer of funds to his
political party. He managed to ‘find a check’ and deliver back $65.000 and retained
A report to Washington on illegal groups in LA identified Otto Pérez Molina as
involved in a obscure military network which has instated the military powers of
the internal conflict in new obscure and corrupt networks168. It also alludes to
Molina’s involvement in the kidnapping and murder of the guerilla Efraín Bámaca
and comments on Molina’s ‘road to power’ in GT politics. The name of the
military network is said to be ‘El Sindicato’. Molina was a harsh critic of Portillo’s
government which was set to have floated money out of the country and into
Panaman banks. In 2002 he led a demonstration of some 3000 demonstrators in
Guatemala City against Portillo’s government.
January 14th: President Óscar José Rafael Berger assumes presidency after his
predecessor Alfonso Portillo.
December 12th: CICIG is founded with the goals to investigate and end corruption
and political impunity in Guatemala169. Until Ivan Velasquez became the primary
commissioner in 2013, the organization provided assistance in the struggle to end
corruption and fraud in GT politics, but the organization’s ‘claim to fame’ came
after Velasquez was appointed leader. (Perhaps) the biggest case from the period
between 2006 and 2013 was against President Alfonso Portillo (president from
2000 to 2004).
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
The CICIG is also, at various times, conceptualized as kind of political
opportunity170 (for instance by Álvaro Montenegro). The conception of the CICIG
started a movement towards a normalization of GT politics, in which fraud,
corruption and institutionalization of malignant practices would be contested.
However, the CICIG would take some times and maturation before it would reach
a level of political importance and influence to do so. In the first years, the CICIG
worked on various cases but never more than approximately 1 large case per
year171. The largest case pursued was that of Alfonso Portillo. Portillo who has
been suspected of promoting corruption heavily during his presidency, however,
his charges dragged out to logn after his presidency and amounted to only 70
months in a prison in Colorado (as far as I have bene able to determine). These
charges appear mild in comparison with his crimes172. He returned to GT after
serving his prison sentence of 70 months in the US (Which I believe was also
shortened significantly and that his final sentenced ended up being around 1½
years). The sentence was not passed until 2011, long after the crimes of Portillo
and his sentence was not served until even later either173. Portillo’s sentence in the
US was also based on a different case of money laundering than the original cases
from GT that it appears he did not serve. Portilo was also linked with the Moreno
smuggling ring that is seen as linked with the more current La Línea case. The
Moreno ring that was discovered in the end of the 1990ies, had links with the
president but these were never followed to a conclusion. However, the case of
Portillo was the largest pursued and case of the CICIG until the recent political
cases with much larger ramifications (although prior cases had also been important
political cases, none had been of this scale). In essence. The CICIG did was not
ready to take on the political powers, for one reason or another, before the entrance
of Ivan Velasquez. Most Guatemalans attribute the maturation of the CICIG to
him, as a personal achievement because of the clear change that took place after he
arrived. This seems likely as well, given that the organization had had a long time
of ‘preparation’ before he took office, and given the very rapid change that took
place after he did so. However, we should also note that some of the work that was
revealed after he took office had been initiated and started before he did so. In any
case, the idea fits with our conceptualization of objective and subjective
opportunities, i.e. structural and agency oriented (or contextual) which I believe
that we should distinguish between. I.e. the CICIG organization as the
implementation and institutionalization of an objective opportunity, and the agency
appropriation through Ivan Velasquez (and his office of investigators; those
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
unknown people who have worked tirelessly but whom few know anything about
and who are rarely mentioned if ever in publications and official statements, etc.).
Otto Pérez Molina is implicated in a case of corruption, where millions of
quetzals from government funds disappear and from which some half a million
ended up in accounts belonging to Molina. He excused himself saying that the
money was a loan and the charges were never pursued.
December 14th: Álvaro Colom (UNE) succeeds former president Óscar José
Rafael Berger who has been sitting president since 2004. Berger was former mayor
of GT City form 1991 to 1999. The presidential period of Berger has been marked
by many cases of corruption and fraudulence, however, impunity has been
pervasive as the country’s justice system has remained extremely weak during his
presidential period. One of the most telling cases was a case involving the murder
of three El Salvadoran officials that were killed, it is generally assumed, by corrupt
police officers. Following the killings of the officials, the presumed murderes were
killed inside of a ‘top-security prison cell (El Boqueron). No one ever saw the
assassins who entered and left the prison with ‘no witnesses’174. Otto Berger then
tried to pin the killings on other prisoners. However, this extreme case of a severaly
lacking justice system and extensive corruption showcases the state of the
Guatemalan state system at this point in time.
During his presidency it is widely held that ‘external interests’ were widely
influencing top-level decision making and keeping a tight grip on the entire
political system of the country. Death squads were reported to operate in various
parts of the country175 .
It should also be noted that Álvaro Colom was the first center-left president
(elected or not) of Guatemala for more than 30 years176.
May 10th: The murder of prominent lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg surprises the
country with a video showing Rosenberg predicting his own death and attributing it
to president Colom177. The release of the tape generated wide-spread protest in the
country that demarcated the strong political and social divisions of the country that
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
has persisted through centuries. In addition, this case was also seen as a mark of the
former militaries transition into politics and organized crime178.
June 28th: Honduran president Manuel Zelaya is toppled179 by a military coup180
‘all but endorsed’ by the US181. The US has continuously supported Hernandez, the
new Honduran president, through a series of fraudulent political turmoil and
legislature after the toppling of the former president182. The US support for the
toppling of the democratically elected president is telling183, even reported by
Zelaya himself184. It is argued, that Zelaya’s primary mistake was inviting the
people ‘in‘ in discussions about keeping US military bases open for American
military in Honduras, continuing with the CAFTA (Central American Free Trade
Agreement), whether to pull Honduran troops from the US school of the Americas
(notorious military school), creating water systems, etc. it is argued that these ‘leftleaning’ measures (completely in line with Chomsky’s thesis of US foreign policy)
was the reason why the former president must be dismissed (this coup should be
mentioned in line with the successful coup in Haiti 2004185 186 where Canada and
France were also involved and especially in relation to the migration ‘crisis’ at the
‘frontera sur187’ and, furthermore, at the US southern border where victims of US
crimes are now fleeing to188.
Some of the programs to decrease migrations flows are ironically similar to the DK government’s circulated letters
in the Middle East. For instance upwards of 75% of the ‘aid’ that the US gave Guatemala in 2015-2016 was earmarked
to anti-migration campaigning (like an expanded version of the DK initiative led by Inger Støjberg – no money for
helping migrants are included though). See also criticism of US aid packages to GT backed by more than 60 civil
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Claudia Paz y Paz is instated as general attorney (chief executive of the MP). Her
predecessor, Conrado Reyes were ousted from office just 17 days after being
instated189. She is also the first woman in GT history to occupy this position.
Among her achievements were the investigations into the genocides committed
during the internal conflict of GT between 1960 and 1996. Insight Crime reports
on some of her achievements190 also citing convictions of various drug-lords,
several former militaries, hundreds of gangsters from the Mara Salvatrucha, Barrio
18 and the Zetas.
General: In the 2011 elections, 37 people were killed in political or election disputes, 65 were
threatened with murder, 27 were injured, and 11 other cases of aggression were registered 191. This
appears to be slightly more than in 2015, where at 5 people were direct victims of assassinations
with several others being ‘collateral damage’ in the attacks (reaching a total of at least 10).
Thesis | 141
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
July 7th: Christina Siekavizaa is murdered192. Investigation later showed that her
husband, Roberto Barreda, had killed her. Barrreda’s mom was a former magistrate
of the supreme court and during the legal processing she endeavored to obstruct the
legal processing of her son. The murder of Siekavizza led to an increased focus on
social justice in relation to women in GT193. Siekavizza was an ‘upper-class’
woman which gained the case much attention (because femicide is more often
happening to poorer women). Barreda fled Gatemala shortly after the murder, in
August, but both he and his mom are now under trial in GT.
6th of November: Otto Peréz Molina (Partio Patriota [PP]) and Roxana Baldetti are
elected as president and vice president of Guatemala, respectively, succeeding
president Álvaro Colom. Molina’s presidential campaign has focused on a leading
the country with ‘an iron fist194’ to put an end to corruption and to narcotics and
gang-related criminality. He also argued that he would bring transparency to the
state of GT in an effort to end the corruption scandals of the country. None of the
promises were followed through.
’Seguridad y empleo con mano dura’ (Wikipedia used as source to emphasize general knowledge).
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
HR: extensive human rights abuses has been documented, continuing a long history of violence
against union workers, indigenous rights leaders and other civil organization leaders fighting for
justice and rights for the population195.
Crime: according to a report from INACIF, homicide rates have seen a decrease since 2008/2009.
The country overall has dropped from some 47/100.000 to around 38/100.000 in 2012, according to
the report196.
Police and military: The US country reports on human rights from 2014, argues197 that when Otto
Peréz Molina took to presidency, there was still an insufficient control with the country’s military
forces. Issues of HR violations perpetrated by the military and the police (PNC) were not
uncommon. The report also pointed out that the penitentiary facilities were grossly ‘over-populated’
(not enough facilities) and that the conditions in the country’s prisons were poor. Inmates have been
killed in several cases of prison violence (PL also reported on the prison system around February
2016 with the same conclusions and adding a great deal of prison corruption as well).
Demonstrations: The years saw a total of 707 demonstrations, according to El Periodico, of which
the largest part took place in GT City (339 between January 1st and October 8th)198. 62% of the
demonstrations are registered as peaceful. 20.4% are road blockades and 7.9% classified as walks
(technically these demonstrations are still peaceful although they do obstruct movement of other
citizens). These three types account for almost all of the demonstrations of the country (90.3%).
Only a very small part of the demonstrations are outright violent (attacks on property, retention of
persons, invasions of terrains, etc. at 4.1%). Demonstrations are prevalent on Tuesdays and
Thursdays (22 and 23 a day, respectively) and least frequent on weekends (Saturdays 6 and Sundays
7, on average, respectively).
January 14th: Otto Pérez Molina assumes presidency after Álvaro Colom whose
presidential period has been plagued by injunctions with corruption. Molina came
to presidency on a campaign of anti-corruption in which he promised to deliver
transparency, ‘an iron fist’ against organized crime and corruption, etc. After just
13 months it seemed clear, however, that Molina would not deliver on those
promises199 (except for the extended deployment of the military to resolve civil
conflicts which was heavily criticized by civil society organizations and the
international HR organizations200) . Upon taking the residency, Molina and
Baldetti initiated the 4-year term by throwing an enormous party that surpassed $1
million in expenditures. The attires of the President and Vice President alone
surpassing $10.000. Both Molina and Baldetti have been involved in high-level
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
corruption even before they reached the presidential seats. It is reported that
Baldetti owned many properties, a helicopter, and more even before she became
Vice President, with costs vastly surpassing her income as a congress member. It
has long been known that presidential campaigns of Guatemala have been run on
influence and money from outside interests (contractors, organized crime
networks, etc.) and that the winning parties have usually had to pay back these
enormous sums when a party reached presidency (see also the uncoverings by the
CICIG from 2015 that confirmed this suspicion). Tellingly, Baldetti’s
extravagancy were financed through various means of corruption, influence
trading, fraud, and alike though the allegations against her were never sentenced in
a court until 2015. Like her, Molina had also been involved in several cases prior
to being elected president, but had never been convicted in a case before 2015.
March 24th: At a presidential summit for the CA countries, President Molina
announces that he thinks it is about time CA starts considering decriminalizing
drugs to end drug related violence in the region. He argued that the policies against
drugs have long failed and that he is ready to look to alternative solutions. The US
remains against the policies but are acknowledging the subject as a legitimate
topic for discussion201.
Without date: The Guatemalan government, under President Molina, announces
the formation of a national drug policy reform commission, tasked with evaluating
current policies and studying possible alternatives202. The commission was finally
installed in 2014 and is set to provide technical inputs and high regards for human
rights matters as well.
October 6th: more than 15.000 protestors assemble on the Inter-American
highway with marches and road blockages in protest of high electricity prices,
proposed constitutional reforms, andchanges to the professional teachers training
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
programs. The protests were suppressed with force by the military under the
command of which bullets were fired into the crowds killing at least six and
wounding more than thirty people203. GHRC204, Crisis Group International205, and
UNHCHR and other civil organizations all condemned the use of military forces
against peaceful demonstrations (which president Molina was criticized for using
on several occasions) and argue that the military is not subservient to the national
police and that the military forces are not trained to protect the civilian rights in
cases of demonstrations and other civil matters, unlike the PNC. Crisis Group
argued that Molina did take steps to alleviate the tensions between the groups
involved (primarily various conservative interests and the Mayan communities),
but it is unlikely that much was achieved beyond some initiatives in the
government to mitigate the confrontations between the rural populations and the
urban elites.
November 7th: A major earthquake (7.4) partially destroys the city San Marcos in
Guatemala, 300 kilometers from the capitol206 207. 42 people died and thousands
were left homeless. Part of the rebuilding process was to restore or rebuild 10.000
homes. This became the unraveling of a scandal at the FONAPAZ (National fund
for peace – established in 1991) which was under direction of Baldetti and
Molina208. When the work was finished, the government program took it upon
themselves to use the homes for political propaganda, naming the houses “homes
of Baldetti”. Baldetti was forced to change the names but argued that she had ‘no
idea that they would have been named after her’. But this became only the start of
a larger scandal, as it was revealed that in the first year of Molina and Baldetti’s
term, more than half of the $10 million budget of FONAPAZ had been directed to
constructors with direct links to the funds director Armando Paniagua or
supporters of the ruling party. In addition, the use of funds by FONAPAZ was,
from the onset, shadowy with several injunctions of fraud209 210 211 and corrupt
purposes212 213. The handling and administration of the FONAPAZ fund is largely
attributed to Baldetti though most of the funds had been ‘misdirected’ by the head
of the fund, Armando Paniagua, who was a close friend of both Molina and
Baldetti. FONAPAZ was scheduled for closing down in 2013 because of
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
corruption charges, though in 2014 the process was still on-going and schedules
for the closing of the fund delayed until 2015214.
GHCR (Guatemala’s Human Rights Commission) evaluates the first year of
Molina’s presidency. The remilitarization of GT society is strongly opposed as
well as the renewewd impunity structures erected around the military institutions
and leaders (reminiscent of earlier times of GT society). President Molina was by
many seen as a proponent of the preservation of the military (much like Jimmy
Morales is today, based on his affiliations with the FCN-nacion party) and he was
the elections ‘conservative’ candidate. The report accounts for several issues with
the remilitarization as well as the repression of indigenous society of GT in
relation to the cases of
Generals: the UN human development report (UN HDR) ranks Guatemala as
May 10th: Rios Montt, former leader of Guatemala, is in a ‘world’s first’ brought
to justice for his crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison. The
verdict came 30 years after the case was filed by survivors at to the public ministry
and 30 years after the crimes were perpetrated. Rios Montt was the de facto head of
state of Guatemala during the worst years (1981-1982) of the internal conflict that
lasted from 1960-1996.
May 20th: The CC dismisses the legality of the case against Rios Montt on a
technicality215, which lets the former military dictator go free in spite of his
conviction of genocide and crimes against humanity. The CACIF is argued to have
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
levied in pressure in favor off the overturning of the former decision216. In relation
to the overturning of the case, both the judge overseeing the case (Yassmin barrios)
and the general attorney (Paz y Paz) were suspended following the imprisonment
of Rios Montt which has been a landmark example of the corruption of GT
politics. President Molina maintained that genocide had never happened in GT and
the CACIF strongly criticized both the judicial process as well as the influence of
foreign organizations in GT politics for ‘destabilizing Guatemalan politics and
society’ through the polarization of the cases like the one against Rios Montt.
Unspecified date: Ivan Velasquez is appointed leader of CICIG217 from 20132015. In 2015 the term of the CICIG was extended by 2 years until 2017. has reported extensively on the work of Ivan Velasquez and his
strategies in combating corruption in GT from the very beginning of his term218.
December 10th: Vice President Baldetti reiterates states that she doubts that the
CICIG can investigate political parties219 and, for some reason, argues that it is the
corrupt mayors who are primarily to blame and that ‘everybody knows they are the
(corrupt) ones’. However, she refuses to tell which mayors she is referring to,
arguing that that is not ‘her job’220.
December 18th: President Molina announces that he intends to end the term of the
CICIG, arguing that it is about time that Guatemala starts handling the country’s
problems by itself221. He further indicates that the international forces working to
end corruption in GT are against the interests of Guatemala and that Guatemala
needs its own forces to end corruption.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Generals: resentment towards the Vice President, Baldetti, has already started building on the basis
of her ‘stupidity’ on the basis of various cases. Many rumors circulated about the Vice President,
but often times resentment against her was directed towards her statements that were regarded as
incredibly stupid. This is most clearly expressed in the hashtag #frasesbaldetti that circulated widely
on Twitter, citing ‘stupid or ignorant phrases’ of Roxana Baldetti. By 2014 this hashtag had already
been circulated extensively and did not cease to gain momentum222. Military expenditures of the
state has decline to an official number of 0.4% of GDP according to insight crime223. A report
from Insight Crime argues that public works contracts have done more to incite the creation
of a mafia state than almost any other public project224. The argument is extensive, but it can be
summed up in short that public projects handled by the state and municipalities are usually used to
buy influence and power in various ways. Public contracts have become a lucrative business, which
is realized by private businesses and persons alike. Because of this, corruption centers around these
contracts both in terms of illicit campaign financing (corrupt forces paying for campaigns to receive
public contracts in return) as well as for private enrichment and to use as ‘favors’ for friends,
families, and other ends. The report correctly states that this is evident in the amount of cases
brought to trial focusing on this exact issue ‘inside dealings’ with public contracts. Hence these
contracts have become a means in and of themselves for corruption. They balance power to a large
extent as they have become almost like a market place for corrupt forces to buy into. In the words of
Insight Crime, public works have become like ‘quotas of power’. This also marks one of the
important shifts in the corrupt practices in GT: a turn towards ‘business-like’ practices, in which
illicit forces compete over what was to be democratic, legal, and official means of the state.
Whereas former illicit networks were more ‘crude’ in their clandestine operations, today’s crime
syndicates (at least to a considerable extent) base themselves around businesslike appearances and
representations. In other words, they are represented by what appear to be formal and legal
structures, blurring the demarcation between legal and illegal entities and their respective territories
and modes of operation. According to the report, this blend between political and corrupt
organizations is also what keeps most political parties afloat. The political system of GT having
been described as more of a market place for corrupt interests to buy influence than a real political
system with parties shaped by ideology and values.
Poverty: Has increased to 59.3% according to the World Bank, which is an increase from about
50% in 2006225, though ECLAC reported the figures of 2006 at 60% poverty and 30% indigence.
Latin America average is 28% according to ECLAC. This is a continuation of a slow decrease that
has persisted in LA from around 1990. Indigence (extreme poverty) has seen a slow but regular
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
increase since 2012, now reaching 12%. In nominal numbers this means the amount of poor people
has increased from 164 million in 2012 to 167 million and an increase in indigence from 66 million
in 2012 to 71 million in 2014.
ECLAC further includes a multi-dimensional poverty study (including other factors than economic
income) to assess the levels of poverty across LA using a different methodology (numbers here are
from 2000 to 2006 based on ECLAC’s available data but published in 2014). Guatemala ranks 3rd
last (only beating Nicaragua and Honduras) with 70% of the population living in multi-dimensional
poverty (down from 79% in 2005)226.
Poverty in Guatemala is most prevalent in the rural areas; 86% but also accounts for more than half
the urban populations; 53%. The tendency is uniform across LA where poverty, in all countries
included, are prevalent in the rural areas.
Income distribution: Bipolarization of income is measured in accordance with the Wolfson index
in ECLAC’s panorama of LA. Guatemala ranks 2nd lowest seeing a very slight increase and is only
above Honduras. Income polarization measures the extent to which income groups are distributed
around specific ranges of income. By mathematically modeling group polarization, ECLAC argues
that the higher the degree of polarization in a society, the more likely segregation, discrimination
and other societal conflicts are. This does not seem to be out of line with empirical observations
from GT.
Employment: Guatemala’s youth employment and employment rates are doing well according to
ECLAC numbers. Youth employment is lower than overall unemployment, but both are low and
comparing with other countries of LA faring better. Wage discrimination remains significant with
women earning less than men for comparable work with a statistically significant discrimination
against women227.
Crime: Guatemala has a fairly high level of crime incidents according to ECLAC but only slightly
above the LA average. However this average is pretty high with more about 43% having
experienced violent or non-violent crime in the last 12 months. Sexual assault increased from 120
(2009) to 640 (2014) according to OSAC228 (reported incidents – primarily targeted at women
travelling alone). From 2009 to 2013 the numbers of missing persons increased by 207%. OSAC
cites INACIF on an increasing in homicides reaching 6.072 (PNC reporting 4.998 - the two
institutions differing on definitions over homicide). ‘Femicide’ and violence against women,
similarly remains a serious issue. While the government has taken steps to combat this violence, it
is still a serious issue for the country and the impunity on the area remains high (with some
Multi-dimensional poverty poverty measures 13 variables of poverty: economic poverty plus twelve others including
low educational achievement, social protection, housing materials, access to water, etc. In this research, income poverty
was the largest factor on the assessment of multi-dimensional poverty in GT, while durable goods ranked 2 nd and access
to water 3rd. However, subsequently access to clean drinking water has become a major issue in GT.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
organizations also mentioning pointing out that punishments are not always in proportion to
GDP: Is increasing and the country remains the largest economy in the region (CA).
Press: the freedom of press is argued as limited based on harassment, threats and violence against
journalists covering organized crime, including its links to public officials. These acknowledged
practicing ‘self-censorship’ in these cases because of these threats to their safety and well-being in
covering the subjects. According to a US report on human rights practices from 2014, 77
complaints were filed at the PM for attacks or threats against journalism by the end of November. In
2013 this number was 64 complaints and 4 killings. Censorship and content restriction was implicit
but present through attempted extortion of various newspapers in both direct and indirect ways.
Public officials is especially singled out, somewhat in agreement with the private sector, on how
independent media is treated and handled. Some cases involve pressure, favoring, attacks, etc. from
government officials on media outlets because of their criticism of public affairs. Organized crime
networks did the same thing, pressuring especially individuals (reporters and journalists) on their
Corruption: there were several cases of corruption within the state system and various state
institutions. On September 3rd, the CICIG unraveled a corruption scandal in the prison system
where authorities received bribes to transfer inmates from one prison to another. On October 9th, the
CICIG demanded an investigation into three curt magistrates for taking bribes to lower private
company fines. On June 3rd the former mayor of San Miguel Petapa, Rafael Eduardo Gonzales
Rosales and five others were arrested charged for fraud and money laundering of Q34 million. The
case, however, was dismissed in October as well as the case against former mayor of Chinautla,
Arnoldo Medrano. Both dismissals were criticized by civil society organizations and rule-of-law
Indigenous rights: the indigenous populations is estimated to make up approximately 44% of the
total population (though it is believed to be higher by some230). Indigenous are entitled to equal
opportunities and treatment by national law, however, in many cases indigenous consultancy and
participation opportunities for indigenous communities have been lacking. For instance in cases
over exploitation of natural resources in their areas (including timber, water and more), and
indigenous communities have lacked effective mechanisms to resolve conflicts with the state. Many
public services are lacking in indigenous areas such as schooling, infrastructure and access to
political participation. In addition much concern has addressed the state’s failure to consult with the
indigenous populations in relation to development projects that instead disproportionately benefitted
corporations, government officials and their associated rather than the indigenous communities.
While some members of the indigenous population participate in official politics, it is questioned
whether this participation had any influence on the political party structures. Poverty, illiteracy and
other associated maladies also very disproportionately affects the indigenous population. Lack of
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
police officers native to indigenous communities was also an issue though the PNC opened 2 new
police training schools (making the total 3) specializing in this area. Adequate access to legal
proceedings in native languages is also thoroughly lacking. In many cases bilingual judges and
lawyers were assigned to cases that did not match their language sets.
Other human rights: The LGBT communities experienced a wide range of discrimination
including police discrimination against the communities. Antidiscrimination laws exist, but they do
not apply to LGBT individuals. The government has not taken adequate steps to address these
issues. ‘Vigilante mobs’ were also reported to have killed 78 people in acts of ‘taking the law into
one’s own hands’. The vigilante acts are usually attributed to the PNC’s and judicial system’s
failure to provide adequate social security and justice in these cases. Strikes are not sufficiently
provided for in national law as there are made some prohibitions to the formations of legal strikes.
Labor law and rights of workers were also mitigated or not enforced in several other ways as a
consequence of lack of government effort in these areas. Additionally, employers were rarely
sanctioned adequately in labor law disputes. Often companies refused to acknowledge court
decisions with little or no consequences. Human rights activists, labor union leaders and indigenous
community leader’s safety remained an issue with many cases of threats, harassment and even
murder reported against leaders. Authorities reported that they investigated five murder cases
against union members reported during the year, but most cases remain uninvestigated. Several
issues of labor law also continued about force labor and child labor, mainly associated with lacking
government enforcement due to a lack of government inspectors of labor rights. Child labor
therefore also remained a severe issue especially in rural sites in various agriculture and some other
areas231. UDEFEGUA announced in a report that the attacks against human rights and indigenous
rights defenders and leaders was at its highest since they began recording232 233 (a report titled
‘smaller than David’).
February 5th: the CC demands that Claudia Paz y Paz steps down from her role as
attorney general of the country, 7 months early of her designated period234. Paz y
Paz was elected general attorney (chief executive of the MP) in 2010 and has been
a leading figure in championing social reform. The decision by the CC weakens the
rule of law and the autonomy of elected officials who are supposed to act
independently. This decision may have been a response to her zealous fight to
strengthen judicial institutions (especially the MP) and to end injustice and
impunity in the country235. Most markedly the fight for conviction of Rios Montt
that was almost achieved in May 2013. After being convicted for genocide, Rios
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Montt case was afterwards dismissed by the CC because of a ‘technicality’ and he
was released from prison and further trials. The continuing struggle for his
conviction remains a central aspect of GT political battle. Paz y Paz term was
short-circuited because of a challenge brought to the CC by ‘corporate lawyer and
businessman’ Ricardo Sagastume236 and, in addition, a member of the political
party Frente Convergencia nacional (FCN-Nación) which was funded and
supported by retired militaries from its very beginning. Sagastume’s argument was
the Paz y Paz, technically, was to complete the term of her predecessor, rather than
a ‘full four year period’. This argument was heavily criticized by civil
organizations both nationally and internationally Sagastume himself argued that
the case was a reflection solely of constitutional interest, not political, though
everything points to the latter (especially that this was the second time he filed a
case against Paz y Paz and because Paz y Paz had shown consistent and ardent
struggle to bring justice to former militaries – supporters of the FCN-Nación
party). In addition,Paz y Paz name was not eligible for a second term when the
general attorney for the next term was to be elected237. Many Guatemalans decried
this development, amongst other Helen Myna Mack of the Myrna Mack foundation
who argued that this displayed a lack of credibility of the system and a lack of
autonomy in the judicial system. In an article in the Americas Quarterly, severe
acts of corruption, blackmail and fraud are voiced from some of the supreme
judges of the country who stated hat death threats were sent directly to their cell
phones in order to influence their votes. The report cites both organized
criminality, drug lords, business elites, former militaries and corrupt politicians to
all have been against the reelection of Paz y Paz since those were all groups the
MP had been getting at while she was head of the ministry. She has especially
gained political enemies by sentencing Guatemala’s ‘untouchables’ (elites of
military, politics, organized crime, etc.) with their hands firmly grasping the power
of the country. In the end, Paz y Paz did not make it to the last rounds of elections
for general attorney (for her second term) and was replaced by Thelma Aldana.
Aldana was viewed by some to have connections already with PP, and therefore
might be a supporter of the sitting government, however, she turned out, like her
predecessor, to be an adamant defender of law and justice.
February 27th: Photos of Baldetti appear on ambulances which is widely
interpreted as political propaganda. She is seen holding a baby on a large photo on
the back of the ambulances238. The case draws connotations to the 2012 rebuild
after the earthquake in San Marcos as well as a case in 2013 where, in celebration
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
of the children’s day’ children in the hospital received presents with pictures of the
Vice President.
June 9th: Thelma Aldana is instated as chief executive of the MP239 (appointed in
May)- she turned out to be a major force in the battle against corruption. Priorly
she was president of the supreme court from 2011 to 2012.
September 3rd: it surfaces that Byron Lima, from his prison cell, has erected a
large-scale corruption ring in which he is the leader (from inside the prison while
he is still serving a 20 year sentence)240 241 242. Lima and Pérez turned out to have
strong ties between them which were revealed, among other places, in the case in
question. Lima was caught while he was leaving the prison (as he turned out to do
almost regularly) in a caravan of SUVs that turned out to be used also by Pérez
party (Partido Patriota), as well as one of Lima’s prison factories turned out to
produce T-shirts for the party243. According to Goldman, this point in time made it
impossible for Pérez to terminate CICIG’s mandate (which Pérez had been
working to do for a while). The ties between Lima and Pérez threatened to unravel
a high-profile case against the president himself and his involvement with the
prison-case (before the La Línea case), which might as well draw on previous cases
showing the president’s involvement in various crime organizations and
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
General: Political power: Nómada posted an article giving their rankings of the 30 most powerful
actors in GT politics prior to the elections244. The rankings consider various power aspects in terms
of economic capital, political power (in congress), individual leadership, geopolitics, elite relations,
and relational structures i.e. political work teams, autonomy in the political arena, etc. The list
contains 30 political actors, and ranks Ivan Velasquez and Thelma Aldana highest (on an overall
basis), however various actors score higher in specific categories. The ‘top 10’, overall, are: 1) Ivan
Velasquez/ Thelma Aldana 2) Juan Luiz Bosch 3) Mario López 4) Tom Shannon / Todd Robinson
5) Jose Miguel Torrebiarte 6) Julio Herera 7) Andrés Castillo 8) Sandra Torres 8) Helen Mack 10)
Ángel González. See the article supplied for elaboration. Contrapoder245 delivered an article on the
military’s influence in GT politics since the signings of the peace accords in 1996. Since then,
Contrapoder argues, the military has maintained its power and influence in congress and otherwise.
One of the ways this is expressed is in military spending. For instance, the military does not have to
account for expenditures like other state institutions have to. Whenever an institutions applies for
increased costs, they have to go through ha long bureaucratic process to account for the costs,
evaluate them and report back to the financial ministry. The military, however, gets the money first
and then later on can account for the spending. Contrapoder delivers insight into the obscurity with
which the military spends money as well, giving an example of the food budgets where Q252
million out of Q288 million are unaccounted for (2013-14). These questions about the military
expenditures, privileges and alike are rarely brought up in the news, even during the social
movements and alike. The plausible reasons for this are many, but it is worth pointing out that
during ¼ year of surveying PL they never mentioned the military critically. The practices of the
military have, Contrapoder argues, not been ‘updated’ since the 1970ies and 19970ies whereas all
other public institutions have had to update their procedures with the state. Military expenditures
amounts to roughly Q1.4 billion a years of which 40% (Q600 Million) are particularly unaccounted
for (the remaining 60% are for salaries. These are, however, not very well accounted for either).
HRW reports on the situation of HR enforcement that HR attacks and intimidation tactics against
HR defenders remain a serious issue. 79 trade unionist were killed between 2004 and 2015 and in
2015, 20 journalists were subjects to violent attacks. 2 were killed by gunmen246. GHRC
(Guatemala’s Human Rights Commission) reports on Rigoberto Lima Choc who was killed in
Petén, while defending indigenous rights against deforestation and three others who were kidnapped
and threatened with being burned alive247. The police were did not respond during the kidnapping
and did not take action when called on by locals. In addition, violence and extortion remains a
serious issue in GT with gangs making lucrative businesses out of coercing small-business owners.
The UN HDR places Guatemala at around 128 out of 188 countries assessed by the report.
Guatemala thus ranks amongst the lowest in the region, slightly below Nicaragua, 125, though
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
above Honduras, 131 (which declined after the military coup of 2009) as well as Haiti, 163248. The
rankings are the same for both the general index and the inequality adjusted index.
Economic: Guatemala’s tax recollection as percentage of GDP is around 13%249 which is a slight
increase from previous years, comparing with other indexes (Trading Economics250 and a regional
report on development251, that only have official numbers until 2013) – according to the regional
report made in relation to the plan of the alliance for prosperity in the northern triangle (Honduras,
El Salvador & Guatemala), and trading economics, the tax to GDP ratio has been slowly increasing
since around 1992 but remains relatively low (by comparison Denmark’s tax recollection to GDP
ratio is more than 50%252). The low levels of tax remuneration (which have been reported to have
dramatically weakened during the period of Otto Peréz Molina253, and which are known to be
among the lowest in the world254) are likely contributing to the lack of government investment in
important areas (such as health, security and others). One obstacle to increasing tax recollections,
however, is a deep-seated, cultural defiance to taxation because of distrust to government officials.
In other words, Guatemalans are reluctant255 to tax increases because they assume that the money
paid in taxes are more likely to be stolen than spend for public services (which is not an
unreasonable assumption), and even less so, useful public services. Inequality is soaring with the
260 richest Guatemalans owning 56% of GDP of the country256 - a trait that is equivalent
throughout CA.
Crime: the homicide rate has increased from 31.2 / 100.000 in 2014 to 33.84 / 100.000 2015, as
reported by PL257, while the numbers of corpses found with indications of violence has dropped.
Violence in the aggregate seems to have slightly dropped from 2012 to 2014 (based on homicide
rates)258. According to the information from plaza publica, the homicide rate has been declining
since 2010 (except for a 1% increase in 2013).
Manifestations: So far I have only been able to recover a single outline of demonstrations and
mobilizations, which outlines the time between November 28th and December 4th. The organization
behind is Ayassa Estrategia, a conflict and resolution center of GT. The information appears
genuine, but it is of questionable value259. What it does provide is some information on general
inconformity and manifestations against the state and other societal entities.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
On the Renuncia Ya demonstrations, El Periodico brought an overview of the numbers and as well
as an outline of all the demonstrations they held260. Incredibly, the spread of hashtags peaked during
#A27 to more than 32 million impressions (on this hashtag alone) and a total audience of more than
10 million. While this was the largest spread and audience, the remaining twitter hashtags likewise
gained millions of impressions and ‘audiences’.
Without date: The Vice President of the US, Joe Biden, pressures Otto Pérez
Molina to extent the duration of the CICIG as a condition for receiving further aid
from the US. 261 The pressure from the US has caused some consternation with US
inference on GT sovereignty. The US has put pressure on President Molina to do
more to end corruption, and especially the extension of the CICIC to receive
further aid has been a case in point.
No date assigned; the Twitter group ‘Guatemala Basta Ya’ is established. It is
unclear who runs the group but it is very clear that its aim is largely the same as
Renuncia Ya’s (later Justicia Ya)262. Their follower base, however, is currently
below 1500. This convokes with the initiation of the Renuncia Ya group as well
(though Renuncia Ya was, as far as I can tell, not established as an official group
until after (or concurrently with) the first large scale demonstrations).
Notwithstanding, the Twitter profile has amassed more than 5500 tweets (June 11th
2016) and have been heavily active throughout the events).
April 9th: Rolando Silva García, 42, is killed while driving with his family263 264.
He had stated that he was going to be a candidate for Líder in San Andrés
Villaseca, Retalhuleu. He becomes one of at least 5 people assassinated over the
course of the election periods (all mayoral candidates), along with ‘collateral
damage’ of at least 4 more persons.
April 16th: The CICIG announces that they have unraveled a large corruption ring
operating in the country’s customs systems. They argue that up to a thousand
companies could have been involved but they refrain from giving out names on
companies involved in the case. However, they do single out the private secretary
of Vice President Baldetti – Juan Carlos monzón – as the leader of the corruption
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
ring (who is at the time in South Korea)265 266. On the same day, it is reported that
the movement outbreak is initiated by an ordinary group of citizens, Lucia
Mendizábal267 268, Gabriel Wer and Álvaro Montenegro are 3 of those identified
(As far as I can tell the original group was composed of up to 8 people, in
accordance with information from Prensa Libre269). Mendizábal states, like Gabriel
Wer, that the building amount of indignation and frustration with the political
leadership of GT was what led her to the idea of the demonstrations in the first
place. She stated that the indignation extended, from this point, to the propaganda
that had emanated from the Líder party for four years. She argued that many had
talked about nulling their votes at the coming elections (note date= earlier than any
prior mentions), but that she found this strategy to be insufficient to change things.
April 17th: A demonstration calling for the renunciation of the two heads of state
has been called for on Facebook, which will be held on April 25th. The event has
been shared to more than 15.000 invitations in the country by this date (reported by
Siglo 21)270. This call was originally nade by Mendizabal, who had shared an idea
with her closest friends and which later amounted to the Facebook. This plays a
vital part in the idea of movement organization and emergence as it was spurred
merely by an individual idea like this and without any organizational backing or
It is indicated in the article from El País that the group of friends who initiated the
movement later coalesced to form the #Justicia Ya basis (implying that Wer is
likely part of this group). Along with Wer and Mendizábal, appears to be Álvaro
Montenegro271. Montenegro has also been outspoken in writing columns for Plaza
Publica where several of his politically motivated writings can be found272 (it is
quite possible that he is actually a journalist).
April 23rd: Molina, under pressure from various civic organizations and the
population announces that he has extended the contract with the CICIG until
September 2017273 274. The mounting pressure is assumed to have been an
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
important pressure in favor of the extension of CICIG’s term, recalling that Molina
tried, without luck, to end the term of the CICIG in 2013.
April 24th: Jose Rubén Zamora also calls for public demonstations against the
corrupt political system. He writes in an ‘opinión’ en El Periodico (of which he is
the director): “todos a manifestar” (everybody to protest) referring to the already
planned demonstrations of April 25.
April 25th: First demonstrations for the renunciations of Molina and Baldetti.
Lucía Mendizábal proposed the demonstrations of FB under the banner of
‘RenunciaYa’ which became a huge success – more than 30.000 people showed up
for the first demonstration275. The corruption case becomes known as ‘La Línea
case’276. The 25th of April demonstrations were held under the #25A hashtag –
these ‘tags’ became an important part of the ‘mobilization advertising’ with each
large-scale demonstration (particularly those arranged by urban groups) being
communicated using this particular hashtag.
Un-specified date: UN releases world drug report which, again, shows no decline
in world-wide drug consumption277. Relative figures remain stable while nominal
numbers increases by 3 million. Likewise the value of the illicit international drug
trade continued increasing.
March 2nd: Marvin Alexánder Samayoa, Mayoral candidate, and his wife María
Guadalupe are murdered278 279. Samayoa was a Mayoral candidate from Líder in
the municipality of Jalpatagua.
May 5th: Roxana Baldetti renounces from her post as Vice President of GT280.
May 8th: Bishop Álvaro Ramazzini of Huehuetenango calls for a continuation of
the demonstrations following the renunciation of Vice President Baldetti281. He
fears that the renunciation would, strategically, have been a wise choice by
Baldetti, that it would leave to a diminution of the peaceful protests and might even
aid her in escaping conviction in the La Línea case.
May 4th: Citizens of Sololá and Totonicapán blocked various points at the intra
American highway for 6 hours282. The blockades were directed against corruption
in the SAT and for the renunciations of Molina and Badetti. Protests of non-
Thesis | 158
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
conformity played a large (but sometimes neglected) role in the GT
demonstrations. The road was blocked in an act of inconformity in various ways:
with parked cars, rocks, etc.
May 9th: the congress votes 149 for 0 against the renunciation of Roxanna
Baldetti. At the same time immigration authorities are given noticed of her
suspended immunity, and that she will not be allowed to leave the country283. It is
feared that she might try to flee after renouncing but she was arrested shortly after
losing immunity. On the 9th of May, Baldetti renounces her vide presidency as
well. Demonstrations continued at the Plaza Publica in the center of GT City,
partially in celebration of the renunciation of Roxana Baldetti and partially in
continued effort for her conviction and the renunciation of President Molina284.
May 15th: A new case of corruption surfaces under the name of IGSS-Pisa285. The
case involved the IGSS (Institute of social security of Guatemala) and a
pharmaceutical company called Pisa. In short the public institution purchased
cheap medicine and treatments for GT patients, which led to several deaths286 in
the health sector. These purchases allowed the officials and private companies to
enrich themselves on behalf of the population of GT (like most corruption
May 16th: another large-scale demonstration involving thousands of Guatemalans
was successfully (and peacefully) held287. Guatemalans from all over the country
and even abroad marched against corruption in GT politics and the throng of
people filled up the entire downtown of GT city288. The march was directed
towards corruption in general and also condemned Manuel Baldizon with banners
stating ‘no le toca a baldizon’ (using the hashtag #noletoca and
#noletocabaldizon289 as well) while the march itself was announced under the
hashtag #M16 – the march reached more than 60.000 participants290. On May 16th
the CC also demanded protection for citizens during demonstrations and of their
rights to assemble291. On the same date, a call was made by 4 prominent societal
organizations for the organization of civil groups to unify and intensify the
mobilizations of the public against the corrupt powers of the political classes292.
The four entities (la procuraduría de los derechos humanos, USAC, la conferencia
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
episcobal, and la alianza evangélica) argued in their statement that corruption was
at its highest in three decades, but that the reactions of political leaders and
authorities indicated that they did not realize the profundity of the crisis and the
roots of the systemic corruption. They emphasized peaceful protests and expressed
courage and belief in the Guatemalan citizenry in the fight to change the system
that had never recovered from its decay during the civil conflict. Furthermore,
the organization MCCC is founded (Movilization Ciudadana Contra la
Corrupción)293. The organization is founded as an aggregate fo 20 existing
organizations uniting their individual constituencies against corruption as the
MCCC’s only espoused goal.
May 19th: The CACIF announces their support for the fight against corruption
though they do not demand the renunciation of President Molina294. The CACIF
supports the combat against political corruption and seeks to avoid further
deterioration of the societal fabric which is eroding at the hands of a severely
defect political system, clearly visible in the continuing escalation of civil
manifestations in the capitol.
May 20th: Another manifestations by the ‘campesinos’ (farmers) of GT who also
ask for the renunciation of President Molina as well as newly elected Vice
President Alexandro Maldonado295. The demonstration included road blockages
which had several roads blocked during the day – which also caused frustration as
the infrastructure of GT City is already heavily overburdened even by regular
traffic. The peasant communities blocked around 12 roads during the day 4 inside
GT city and 8 in other areas296. The demonstrations were arranged by CODECA
and asked for the annulment of the election of Alexandro Maldonado because he
voted ‘no’ against the impeachment of former military leader Rios Montt. Among
other topics were the ending of persecution against civil rights and indigenous
leaders and nationalization of energy and water to help the poor parts of GT
May 23rd: A smaller demonstration is held at the plaza publica in GT city
downtown. According to PL more than 200 people were assembled on to demand
the renunciation of Preisdent Molina297.
May 25th: Cedecon and Cang call for the renunciation of President Molina to
restore confidence in the political institutions298
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
May 31st: Guatemala experiences its 6th week of massive demonstrations in the
capitol against the executives of state. The demonstrations lasted for more than 18
hours, starting from 05:30 in the morning and lasting all day. The marches were
joined by indigenous, farmers, students families, artists and various other social
sectors, all coming from various parts of the country ot demonstrate in the capitol
(along with some coming from the capitol too, of course). Demonstrations were
also held in other parts of the country such as Sololá, Totonicapán, San Marcos,
Petén, Huehuetenango, Escuintla and Chiquimula299. The demonstrations were
joined by many thousands of participant, also with contributions from outside of
June 3rd: The prominent attorney Fransisco Palomo is assassinated in what looks
like a politically motivated attack. Palomo has been the defender in several highprofile cases, including the defense of former military dictator Rios Montt300. In the
article by the CMI, this should be held up with a tendency of increasing violence at
the time. The PNC reported accordingly, that the monthly homicide rate had bounced
during June from 132 to 212 in GT city alone (however, January was also violent
with 194 homicides and the rates are known to have large statistical variation over
short durations i.e. monthly measures). In addition, 5 inmates escaped from a highsecurity penitentiary on May 28th whom are believed to be high-ranking in the
organized crime networks301. Other violent tendencies also occurred during the past
months with a young member of the Justicia Ya movement having his small store
burned down and likewise a teacher from the STEG organization having been
attacked. The escalation of violence, however, does not appear as enough to justify
any changes to our initial observations. The escaped prisoners are not anything
outside of the spectrum of corruption of former times (where inmates have been
killed inside of high-security penitentiaries – ‘caso Salvadoreños302 303)
June 8th: Centro de Medios Guatemala(CMI) post an article covering the attempt
to divide the massive mobilizations against Molina and Baldetti, arguing that
‘everyone wants to break of the massive demonstrations… in this the ultra-right
and the pro-government unions are united’304. The article goes through a particular
demonstration lead by the organization AOC, STEG, FNL, UASP305 (primarily)
but also and other associations that appear allied in spreading misinformation and
defaming the social movement and demonstrators.
These organisations are identified as ‘pro-governmental’ alluding to them supporting President Molina and the
existing constituency.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
June 11th: A commission to investigate the allegations against President Molina is
established by the congress306. It is lead by Baudillo Hichos who resigns 7 days
later because of allegations against him for conspiracy and fraud pressed by the
June 18th: the head of the presidential investigation committee (established on
June 11th), Baudillo Hicos, resigns after allegations of fraud are raised against him
by the CICIG308.
June 19th
June 20th: Telesur publishes an article stating that most Guatemalans wants
president Molina to resign309. This comes only 2 months after the initiation of the
‘Renuncia Ya’ movement and the first demonstration on April 25th.
June 24th: Blanca Stalling is allowed another months leave without duties after
she was mentioned in an intercepted call in the La Línea case310. She applied for a
month’s leave after her name was mentioned in a phone called intercepted by the
CICIG in the investigations of the La Línea case.. She would later go on to block
the process of the La Línea case on August 24th. In addition, her son was arrested
on May 20th in the IGSS-Pisa case. In 2016 she will later be involved in a new
case of corruption (TCQ)
June 26th: A new ‘smaller’ scandal is revealed when it is discovered that President
Molina’s personal guards have not received their due pay throughout their contract
period. Instead, the money from their contracts have been funneled into the pockets
of a subsidiary company. One of Molina’s ‘lawmakers’, Pedro Muadi – former
president of congress, have been in the center of this scandal as the owner of the
fake subsidiary company.
July 2nd: Estuardo Anzueto, Mayoral candidate El Rodeo, San Marcos, dies in the
hospital after having been shot311. During the electoral period, at least 5 people are
murdered (all Mayoral candidates).
July 6th: American ambassador Todd Robinson appears next to Molina,
maintaining US support for the GT president. This support is seen with great
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
contempt in GT. Todd Robinson, however, did support the demonstrations which
has been expressed as hope and important in various instances.
July 15th: The MP and CICIG raises a case against the Vice Presidential candidate
of the Líder party, led by Manuel Baldizon, for money laundering also including
his brother Manuel Barquín, and Jaime Martínez Lohayza. This indictment has
likely strengthened the resentment towards Manuel Baldizon along with many
other alleged ties to corruption312
July 16th: Julio Cesar López Muñoz, mayoral candidate in San Miguel Dueñas, is
July 17th: CICIG313 delivers a major blow to the establishment of GT politics
uncovering large-scale corruption in political financing and trafficking of
influence314. Ivan Velasquez stated in relation to the report that “corruption is the
unifying element of the Guatemalan political system, based on an amalgam of
interests that include politicians, officials, public entities, businessmen, nongovernmental organization and criminal groups.”315
July 23rd: Horacio Quiñones, mayoral candidate from todos is shot dead along
with his three bodyguards316 317 318. Quiñones is the second member of Todos to be
killed in less than a week, signlling strong political motives for the killings. With
the two Todos candidates of San Miguel Dueñas dead, only the oppositional Líder
candidate remained in the run for mayor.
July 28th: La hora brings a news article on the corruption in the CSJ (Supreme
court of justice) in which all 13 elected are essentially voted in by PP and UNE.
Ivan Velasquéz has shortly before written on his personal twitter that the court
does not serve the country (after it had rejected injunctions filed by the CC – at
present 7 filed cases were left by the CICIG and MP at the court but were not
Around August 10th congress refused to vote on a referendum on impeaching
President Otto Perez Molina (dated app. 3 weeks before the actual impeachment).
Thesis | 163
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
August 4th: The G4 argues for a change of the electoral system before the present
presidential elections can take place319. The group argues that the current electoral
system of the country. They argue that several changes are needed before the
elections can be held to guarantee the justice and correctness of the elections, limit
fraud and corruption, etc. in the future.
August 12th: Orlando Guzman, candidate for Líder, is shot dead on a highway in
Zacapa320. He is at least the 5th political figure to have been murdered during the
electoral process. The attack came only shortly after a poll showing that Líder was
in a lead, followed by FCN-Nacion. However, the cause of the attack had not been
August 13th: The first ‘solicitud de antejuicio’ is voted for in congress (approval of
trial of the president – is applied for by the MP and has to be approved by congress
with at least 105 votes for). The entire Líder block left congress in order not to
vote, and the vote ended with a decline (not making it to 105 votes for)321. In total
88 votes for was achieved. 13 deputies from Líder abstained from the vote though
43 voted for. 23 PP deputies voted against and 10 abstained. 3 independent voted
against and 9 independent abstained322.
August 14th: The PDH (Procuradoría de Derechos Humanos) announce its support
for the demonstrators and announces its opposition to the decision of the CC not to
revoke the immunity of President Molina323. And at the same time denounced the
resolution of the CC that has been protecting the Líder party by failing to make
changes to the electoral law. The statement was made by the leader of the PDH,
Jorge Leon Duque. The statement argues that the Congress protects President
Molina, the CC protects the Líder party and the TSE has not cancelled Líder
August 21: The MP presents a new ‘antejuicio’ against President Molina (After
the first was not approved in the congress)324.
August 23rd: On the night between the 22nd and the 23rd, the president of the
CACIF, Jorge Briz Abularach, announced that President Molina must resign325. At
the same time he also expresses his support for the demonstrations in GT. Otto
Peres Molina gives his ‘second speech’ to the ‘Guatemala profunda’ and calls for
demonstrations in his favor and in favor of the future of Guatemala 8more just,
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
transparent, etc.)326. It is also the second time he calls on the ‘profound Guatemala’
to come to his protection and ‘counter-demonstrate’. This call frm the president led
to some 5 thousand demonstrators marching in GT city on the 24th and 26th of
August 24th: as late as august 24th, Blanca Stalling, Magistrate of the supreme
court of justice, blocked the ‘antejucio’ (trial) against President Molina327. Stalling
denied recognizing the paperwork made for the case against Molina and the
assumed link between La Línea case and Molina. The decision by Stalling led to a
‘disintegration’ of the meeting which then had to be re-scheduled. The Trial was
later accepted by the CC (on the 1st of September). Stalling was denounced later
both for this act of defiance (or corruption) as well as for various other cases such
as her sons involvement in the IGSS-Pisa case as well for trying to destabilize the
fiscal attorney and others328. On the same day, some 5.000 demonstrators marched
in favor of President Molina. These were mobilized by 4 organizations: the Uasp,
the FNL, the CONIC, and the STEG (Unidad de ación sindical y popular, Frente
Nacional de Lucha, Coordinadora Nacional Indigena y Campesina, y Sindicato de
trajabadores de la Educcación de Guatemala). The demonstrations were also
continued on August 26th 329
August 25th: A demonstration supporting President Molina is held. The
demonstrators were heeding a call made from President Molina to ‘protect
democracy’ which was, according to him, under threat from the CICIG who was
accusing President Molina for being involved with the criminal network behind the
‘la línea’ case. The protesters were lead by some ‘sindicalistas’ (labor union
leaders) and were demonstrating against the attack on the president. The protesters
also vandalized the headquarters of Prensa Libre hwom they were particularly
angry at for having published a articles that were not supporting the president
(including one showing a drop in support which they referred to as ‘lying’)330.
August 26th: the CC acknowledges a request from the CACIF for the
demonstrations on the 27th, promising ‘free movement’ for the participants across
GT City which will be shut down for the day331.
August 27th: One of the largest demonstrations is held on August 27332. Several
stores collaborated and stayed closed for the day – 34 major stores representing
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
750 outlets333 and other stores offered their help to demonstrators through food and
other measures334. The demonstrations reached upwards of 100.000 participants in
the capitol alone, though demonstrations covered most of the country. Again the
hashtag #A27 was used to promote and communicate the manifestations which
were massively successful (and peaceful – although the demonstrations also
included several road blocks (announced priorly though335)). Molina maintained,
However, that he was not going to renounce his presidency on the same day that
the entire country was demanding his renunciation336. El peiodico covered the
‘numbers’ of the #A27 demonstrations337
September 1st: 132 deputies voted to remove the immunity of President Otto Perez
Molina, for his impeachment and for a detainment order preventing him from
moving out of Guatemala to avoid criminal prosecutions338. They congress
originally declined doing the vote on August 10th, but changed their mind over the
course of 3 weeks. On the same day, roughly 300 demonstrators tried to block the
entrance to congress in order to prevent the deputies from voting on the revocation
of President Molina’s immunity339
September 2th: Otto Perez Molina renounces his presidency and is immediately
sent in custody to await trials340. On the same day, Alejandro Maldonado is sworn
in as intermediary president of Guatemala.
September 9th: Byron Lima Oliva expresses his support for Otto Peréz and Jimmy
Morales as candidate for the presidency341. Byron Lima is in prison for planning
the murder of Bishop Juan José Gerardi in 1998342 and is a member of the ‘military
fraction’ of GT politics (a former captain of the army343). He later went on to call
for demonstrations of the impeachment of former militaries in January 2016 which
had a small turnout of supporters of the ‘militaries’. Even from prison, Lima
maintains influence in GT politics and opinions.
September 11th: Alexandro Maldonado becomes interim president of GT after
Otto Perez Molina steps down. He accepts the constitutional requirement that he is
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
to be president in as both the president and vice president had resigned (Maldonado
was formerly the leader of the CC). He Disbanded the former cabinet of President
Molina and formed an entirely new one for the duration of the interim
presidency344. On September 11th this had been announced though not effectuated.
Alexandro Maldonado pints out that he supports the demonstrations and the
CICIG, the agreement and implementation of which he worked to establish in the
first place when it was decided (around 2006) and agreed between GT and the UN.
October 22rd: Edgar Barquín is arrested and investigations are initiated in a money
laundering sandal that involves the Vice Presidential candidate of the Líder party
of GT who are predicted to be taking the presidency at the next elections (led by
Manuel Baldizon)345. The accusations were raised by the MP and CICIG on July
15th of this year.
October 26th : Jimmy Morales is elected new President of GT. 45% of the eligible
population absented from voting and around 4% of the votes cast were null, blanks
or ‘crossed out’ with ‘thieves’, ‘corrupt’, etc. written across the ballots. All in all,
more people did not vote than voted for Jimmy Morales, albeit he did take a large
majority of the votes given (around 67.4%)346.
December 16th: Molina reiterates his discontent with the CICIG and the MP as
well (i.e. Thelma Aldana). From his prison cell he condemns both, trying to stir
contempt among Guatemalans against the organizations347. He argues that the
CICIG is an extension of the interests of the US in the area and towards Nicaragua
and Venezuela. He argues that the MP has ‘become a tool for the CICIG’ and
condemns the work of Thelma Aldana. Meanwhile, he maintains that he is
innocent and that all of the accusations against him are false.
December 31st: Alejandro Maldonado, intermediate president, approves of a new
differentiated minimum wage for the country348. The agreements published on
December 13st (304 and 307) define the laws about a new differentiated minimum
wage that discriminates between geographical locations. The law was suspended
by the CC on January 12th, 2016 and deemed’ unconstitutional’ because it was too
little to meet the ‘canasta basica’ to maintain a family of 5 even (the ‘basic basket’
value for a family of five is estimated at around Q3550 a month). The agreements
Thesis | 167
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
were supported by the business industry and chamber of business while public
organizations opposed the differentiated minimum wage. The differentiation was
made with the idea to support business in poorer areas of Guatemala by providing
an incentive through lower wages.
January 6th: The MP makes an ‘unprecedented announcement’ that they have
indicted and arrested 18 former ‘high-ranking militaries’349. They are charged with
massacres and forced disappearances from the period between 1981 and 1988
during the height of the GT internal conflict. The arrests included Edgar Ovalle
Maldonado who is considered Jimmy Morales ‘right hand man’.
January 6th: Byron Lima Oliva immediately communicates to ‘friends and
families of the militaries’ to manifest to ‘support the militaries against the MP’350.
He argues that the impeachments and indictments against former militaries are
‘false accusations’ in spite of staggering evidence to the contrary.
January 8th: El Periodico brings an article on an increasing tax-gap caused by
SAT inefficiency (and probably corruption). This story is followed up on several
occasions by various news outlets during the course of the month. The breach
reaches upwards of Q5 billion in the past year351 352. The final result being around
8-10% below the goal for the year (varying slightly depending on source). The
breach should be seen in relation to an increasing public debt as well353. While the
tax recollection goals have not been met since 2012, it appears that the government
(both of Álvaro Colom, Otto Peréz354 and now Jimmy Morales355) continue to
obtain debt to finance public expenditures356.
January 12th: the differentiated minimum wage agreements are suspended by the
CC on the ground that the differentiated minimum wage is unconstitutional357. This
decision reiterates the decisions made by the constitutional court on September 8th
2015, denying agreements 417 – 472 – 473 and 473 (all from 2014) proposed by
Thesis | 168
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Otto Peréz Molina also suggesting a differentiated minimum wage. The
differentiated minimum wage proposed by Maldondo were deemed
unconstitutional because it was too lwo to meet the basic basket (canasta basica)
needed to survive.
January 13th: Minister of Defense, Division General Williams Agberto Mansilla
Fernández and his second in command, Brigadier General Alfredo Soza Diaz,
counter the charges of the MP from January 6th358 by filling an appeal in the CC to
remove paragraph 8 from the national reconciliation law entirely359. The CC
decided not to suspend the article; resident Morales support the impeachment
process and moved to find a replacement for Sosa Diaz.
January 14th: Jimmy Morales enters his presidential period.
January 20th: Nomada brings an article concerning the military’s second in
command, Alfredo Sosa Díaz, who has on January 12th strongly criticized the ‘law
of national reconciliation’ that states the crimes of war during the 80ies cannot be
granted amnesty360. Sosa Diaz proceeded to present a legal document in an attempt
to revoke the Law of national reconciliation, but the CC voted on the 22nd of
January to maintain the original law. Nómada’s article concerns how Jimmy
Morales, newly elected president, should treat this case of indiscipline in the
military, Sosa Diaz is, in addition to being second in command, a cousin of Rios
Montt, whose trial is still pending after the last failed attempt of imprisoning him.
In addition, the article concerns the military influences of the FCN-nación party,
which was originally funded by retired military commanders. It concluded that
Sosa Diaz received only a disciplinary military punishment, and remains in his seat
as second in command in the GT military.
This also marks indicates one of the most prominent, contemporary interests of the
corrupt networks in GT: avoiding prosecutions of former militaries for their
participation in the genocidal internal conflict, especially around the 1980ies. It
appears that much attention and political power is directed towards this objective,
and that avoiding further indictments is a primary interest to these vested powers,
that stretch into the state apparatus. For instance, Sosa Diaz, is number 2 in
command in the GT military structure,: Brigade General and Chief minister of
defense. The document that he presented to the CC on January 12th was signed by
the AveMilgua and the ministry of defense and as he is a cousin to the convicted
Rios Montt, his personal ties reach well into both the formal military institutions
and the corrupt CIACs.
Paragraph 8 stipulates that officials under charge of genocide, massacres or forced disappearances can be stripped of
their immunity in order for impeachment processes to proceed.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
January 27th: Newly elected president of congress, Mario Taracena annuls 54
‘fake positions’ in the congress (‘plazas fantasmas’)361. Tha practice of ‘hiring nonexistent assistants’ in congress has been a recurrent and deep-seated issue of
corruption that has proven difficult to end.
February 2nd: President Jimmy Morales repudiate the differentiated minimum
wage proposalsfrom December 31st 2015. They were originally suspended on
January 12th, 2016, but are now ceased for good362. A differentiated wage persists,
but with the minimum wages being Q500 higher than in the original agreements
and based on employ rather than geography (agricultural – non-agricultural and
textiles manufacturing)
February 4th: Changes are made to the law of congress in order to prevent some of
the corrupt practices that have been recurring in the political system such as
‘transfuguismo’ and ‘plazas fantasmas’363. The law includes penalties on
transfuguismo practices as well as ascribed numbers of secretaries to each party
(one of the ways in which the money was extracted from the political system).
February 15th. 10 changes to the electoral law are proposed in order to improve
the electoral and political system of GT364. The ten changes were ‘less than hoped
for’ and, generally speaking, seem superficial and more as means to ‘keep the
population of the backs of the elite’. Importantly: the law enforced a limit on the
amount of congressmen, decreasing the amount from 160 to 128 (the changes to
the LEPP later will restore the number back to 160 – law number 26 – 2016)
March 2nd: Honduran human rights activist Berta Cáceres is shot and killed in La
esperanza, Honduras365. She had been fighting for years in Honduras in defense of
the rights of Honduran indigenous against various large-scale construction projects,
often backed by international monetary funds (amongst other the World Bank).
Besides her, more than 100 human rights activists have been killed in Honduras
between 2010 and 2014366. The state of Honduras draws close links to the US
support for the toppling of the Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, in 2009
(elaborated in according year). On the same day, 15 Guatemalan women from
Sepur Zarco wins an historic case against former military leaders in a court
ruling in favor of the victims of the military during the internal conflict367. While
the case had been under way for more than 6 years, the women were finally
reimbursed for their persistence to hold the perpetrators accountable for their
Thesis | 170
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
crimes. In the ruling, for the first time sexual slavery was held as a crime against
humanity, conforming to international HR practices. The Sepur Zarco case is
remarked as a ‘landslide’ case in favor of the victims of the militaries during the
conflict years. The women are, in addition, praised for their persistence and
outspokenness breaking what has been termed
April 6th NISGUA reports on continued violations of human rights in
Huehuetenango against civil defenders of human rights of the indigenous peoples
of the region against mega projects368. The GT government remains largely
indifferent to the persistent harassment by these mega-corporations against the civil
populations and in some cases defend the construction sides with government
April 8th: A large demonstration is held in support of the medical system of GT
which is decaying due to a lack of government funding causing severe trouble with
lack of medicine, facilities, equipment, staff, etc.369
April 11th: Large-scale demonstrations for the protection of water sources,
drinking water and water delivery are initiated with long, grueling marches towards
GT city all the way from the Mexican border370. The marches concludes on the 21st
of April, and includes thousands of Guatemalans, especially the indigenous and
rural population of the country who have often felt the grave consequences of
laissez faire policies on water regulations. The rural populations are also the ones
who have suffered the most from the arrival of mega projects like hydro electric
dams and monoculture agribusinesses producing sugar canes, African palm oil and
banana plantations. These projects divert the rivers for their own purposes and
often leave whole townships without water. The country’s environmental minister,
Sydney Samuels, announced that the ministry had found countless producers
following this practice of diverting water for their own purposes. He stated that
they thought they would find a few but after looking into the issue, they had found
plenty. Several countries from LA joined in solidarity with the marchers in GT,
stating that their respective countries face similar issues with water. Among these
were Colombia, Bolivia, and Brazil. The recognition of the water scarcity problems
and implications of private interests in providing water to rural and indigenous
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
populations was not recognized in congress were proposals to amend the issues
were voted against by 70 congressmen371 (iniciativa 5058 - 2016372 373).
April 19th: UNGASS (UN general assembly Special Session on Drugs) holds their
first meeting in 20 years. Much hope was vested in a change in international antidrug legislation, however little was achieved in this direction, NACLA reports374.
The draft of the newest resolution of international combat against drugs was not an
inclusive process and neither was the Special Assembly held on April 19th. The
practices of former decades remain largely in place and criminalization of users
remains a problematic area as well as enforcement of stricter laws against money
laundering. 195 civil organizations from across the world criticized the final
draft375 for being non-inclusive and non-transparent in the diplomatic process. The
NACLA support however did see positive developments: both in LA negotiations
and debate on the topic, on the organization and engagement of progressive civil
society and, lastly, that other UN agencies weighed in on the issues as well.
April 21st: ‘the march for water’ reaches GT City376 – the march for water is a
demonstration to put pressure on the government to enforce legislation on access to
clean drinking water in the country. The country has faced severe difficulties in
relation to scarce access to drinking water, especially for the country’s poor and
rural population. The March lasted from April 11th until April 22nd, in which
thousands of poor peasants have been marching from the country side towards the
capital of the country377.
April 27th: Congress votes against a new law for punishing unlawful divergences,
uses and containments of rivers in GT. This is a major issue following renewed
large-scale protests in favor of water-security for the population. The country has
faced several issues with water access even in zona 15 in GT City378 but even more
prevalent among the poorer parts of the population outside the capitol379, where the
issue has existed for a long time380 with wide-spread contamination. This extents as
well to lake Amatitlan that has faced severe pollution and where Vice President
Roxana Baldetti was also involved in an almost absurd corruption scandal about
‘cleaning up the lake’381. The water contamination derives from years of
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
government negligence, large-scale industrial pollution from chemical plants,
mining and other corporations and pollution from private households that have
been, for instance in the case of Lake Amatitlan, led to the river. The public has
little power of the dispersal of trash, and the government has done little to handle
trash appropriately (see April 29th for elaboration)
April 29th: GT City experiences a major ‘trash slide’ in the ‘junkyard382’ of the
city. After years of piling trash in large heaps in a central junkyard, the place have
faced recurring accidents. The ‘Basurero’ covers 40 acres with trash and is the
home and working place for thousands of people. On April 29th383, 4 people died in
a ‘trash slide’ and more than 50 people went missing384. Other cases of similar
cases from the dump include a fire in 2005 that lasted more than a week, and trash
slides similar to the this one in both 2008 and 2012. See also Google maps for
views of the basurero385
May 4th: News of a new corruption ring called the TCQ case386 surfaces. Again
Pérez and Baldetti are involved in the corruption scandal of self-enrichment
(primarily). The case involves a contract between the government and a harbor
(called TCQ) from which Molina and Baldetti enriched themselves on state
resources387 (a ‘usual’ structure). At the same time, the MP and the CICIG is also
investigating a parallel structure (also allegedly led by Molina and Baldetti) that is
enriching themselves on behalf of the state. Nómada brough
May 5th: RenunciaYa calls for the renunciation of 3 high-profile magistrates in the
May 9th: Another large scale corruption case is unraveling about Aceros de
Guatemala (large-scale corporation). The company owes upwards of Q900 million
in taxes and fines according to PL who reports on a conference held by the SAT388
on May 5th, the company was officially ‘acquired’ by the SAT in order to ensure
that the company will repay its outstanding debts389. After the control of the
#JusticiaYa infographic from Facebook after the trash slide:
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
company has been passed to the SAT, all money flows of the company will be
monitored to ensure that the outstanding tax debts will be covered. The process is
observed by both the SAT, the MP and the PGN.
May 10th: The congress decides on the immunity of Douglas Charchal390 for his
influence in the recent TCQ case. The vote was a unanimous 136to none in
May 23rd: Nómada brings an important article on the TCQ case in relation to ‘big
capital’ in GT society392. The article argues that the state’s institution are
‘strengthening themselves’ in their regulating and sanctioning capacities against
the traditional immunity leading businesses of the countries (the G8 and CACIF –
the article states literally the ‘immune power of the G8 and CACIF). In particular,
the article considers environmental destruction that has also plague Guatemala for
a long time (in 2016 with a particular focus on water issues).
May 25th: The new electoral law is approved by Jimmy Morales. The new law
makes some improvement to the electoral and political system though some
decrees are still left wanting. Some of these are enlargement of the funds for the
TSE (Tribunal Supremo Electoral), internal democratization between the parties,
limiting of reelection of deputes, quotas for minorities such as women and
indigenous (not a national minority but a political one) and improvements to the
national census393. The flaws of the law were also stressed by the CACIF who
again provided their support for the national struggle against corruption394 395.
Realistically the law provides improvement though much could still be desired
from it. The changes could be considered moderate but not fundamental
(reiterating the CACIF’s statement and FLACSO’s analysis as well 396).
May 26th: Nómada tweets that the CICIG, and MP will present an trial of Louis
Rabbé, López Villatoro, Manuel García Chuta and Aristides Crespo397. Rabbé was
the former head of congress (before Mario Taracena) and was widely disliked for
his connection to various cases of corruption and corruption rings. The hashtag
#Rabbéalbote trends highly for the day. On the 26th, Alfredo Rabbé, brother of
Louis Rabbé, was also imprisoned for corruption.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
May 27th: In the IGSS-PISA case takes an important turn as judge Silvia de León
sentences everyone involved to preventive prison, even the powerful elites
involved in the case398.
May 31st: Judge Walter Villatoro finds sufficient evidence to initiate a further
investigation of former congress deputies for corruption based on ‘plazos
fantasmas’399. The case coves 4 former deputies (and congress leaders) with more
than 100 ‘ghost seats’ (false contractions of staff).
June 2nd: Caso Cooption del estado de Guatemala: A new case of corruption
between the state and the monopolistic TV enterprises of Guatemala400 401(but also
including other, non-named businesses). The revelation is tied to a larger report by
the CICIG on Otto Pérez Molina, Roxanna Baldetti and the PP party. The report
goes back 8 years (to 4 years before the PP assumed power of the state). In the case
of the TV monopoly, the case goes back to 2008 where two prominent TV
channels, Radiotelevision Guatemala and Televisiete.SA, in GT started donating
money to proxy companies set up by Roxanna Baldetti (around Q215.600 a month,
432.200 thousand total per month). Until the PP was elected, when Molina and
Baldetti assumed office, the two TV channels were reward with contracts worth
millions. The proxy companies set up by Baldetti were called, Publiases &
Publicmer, Serpumer, and URMA. These companies and the earnings of course
were not reported to the TSE. They bought 10 trucks, 1 mini-bus, 4 Toyota SUVs,
and 1 Chevrolet SUV that were used in the campaign of 2008. This made it easy
for the PP to win the elections (with the huge donations and TV campaigns). The
bills were forged as payments to the proxy companies for services and usage of
‘machines’. More companies (45 ‘contractors’ in total) were also set up by Carlos
Munoz and Victor Hugo Hernandez to launder money. After assuming presidency,
the money laundering ‘machine’ remained active and actively increased its
operations. Besides the TV corporations, other business-leaders also paid in to gain
a dividend on the corruption of the PP party (to be revealed in more detail). In the
case at least 450 contracts have been uncovered (used by the state to repay
contributors to the PP campaigns). The contracts were uncovered while the CICIG
was investigating Juan Carlos Monzón, which linked the proxy companies with
official businesses. The corruption scandal (also named ICM – Incentivo
Comercial Monetario) amounts to a total of at least Q500 million.
The case is important, because it illustrate, with considerable clarity, that the state
corruption under Molina and Baldetti was extensive and encompassing. The report
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
states that it was not a party with ‘islands of corruption’ but a complete corrupt
structure involving, very likely, most of the party, which controlled the country for
a 4 year period in a ‘mafia like way’. Considering that the party received extensive
support from the major TV channels and hundreds of millions in illicit
campaigning aid, the arrangement of the election influences are nearing a
manipulated event (though the elections themselves i.e. votes does not appear to
have been manipulated, this is a case highly illustrative of the idea put forth by
Chomsky in Manufacturing consent). In the election of the PP party in 2011, it
should also be noted that Líder, with Manuel Baldizon coming in second, was the
runner up, a party that later showed traits exactly similar to the ones of the PP and
who was involved in various corruption scandals (but has perhaps escaped much
investigation because they didn’t win office). It is likely that the election processes
are shaped much more by the influences of corrupt support, more so than anything
else. Most important observation may well be that any non-corrupt party, generally
speaking, appears unlikely to win an election.
The revelations also sparked a new hashtag called ‘#JuevesdeCICIG’ because
CICIG has started revelaing major cases on Thursdays.
June 11th: New demonstrations are called for against the state and various cases of
corruption (amongst other the current issue of the TV-State monopoly).
July 21st: Byron Lima, a high ranking military insider who has bene in prison for
about two decades, is murdered in his cell in Pavón with six bullets. This is a
highly significant case as Byron Lima is still, despite of him being in jail, regarded
as an important leader of the clandestine networks whose tentacles reach far into
the state. The murder is reminiscent of the the ‘Caso Salvadoreno’ where the
perpetrators were also murdered while being held captive in a ‘high security
prison’. The assassins walked in and out, and no one ‘saw a thing’. In this case,
much the same seems to have been the case as the assassin is still free and the only
clue is a recovered pistol. Along with Byron Lima, 12 other victims appear to have
been killed in the assassination strike 402403.
The case is a renewal of the killings of high-profile individuals. Sevearl hypothesis
has surfaced of who is behind the assassination, which is still unknown. His
brother proposes three404, José Ruben Zamora another405 and the general
investigators contributes with three in additiona to these406. The ideas generally
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
circle around various obscure connections with rivaling organized crime networks
or that retired militaries were behind the assassination because he ‘knew too
Appendix 10: General conceptual framework
The general framework is intended to provide a simple delineation of concepts and their interaction
in the theoretical analytical framework. The concepts we have elaborated above, however, in order to
provide a better understanding of their interaction and relations, the following model is provided. The
general conceptual framework has the shape of a pyramid, much like the pyramid of needs by
Maslow, or the Iceberg model provided by Schein. Similarly, to the theory of needs and the iceberg
model, the pyramid is modeled on the assumption that some things must precipitate others,
necessarily. These relationships, however, are neither causal, pre-given nor working in a ‘one-way’
manner. Rather they are interrelated and each concept is multivariate and the general framework
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
provides only a generalization of each not an exhaustive explanation of its connections with the
others. Neither is a causal, invariant model assumed to exist.
The model is based around a logical inference of which elements precipitates the other in a
developmental sequence. This sequence can be elaborated as follows: nature is the primary. Atoms
and natural forces predate any kind of human life or any kind of life, and is a necessary condition for
human life. Resources, in accordance with the RM view, are illustrated here because they are partly
natural and partly human: for instance ‘know-how’, ‘experience’, etc. are human resources and thus
part of individuals, whereas material resources are part of nature. A third category (not illustrated),
which is essentially a synthesis between the two, are objects created by humans: resources that have
been manipulated by human beings in order to become useful in the way they are used, i.e. computers,
buildings, etc.
Individuals, (the public) is the next logical developmental sequence as human beings precipitate
culture, norms and practices i.e. before we can even talk about culture and human beings’ creations,
we must have human beings. Human beings’ creations, practices, norms, translate into the third
general level. This level is comprised of humans’ creations and activities in their simple forms before
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
we reach concepts that are more complex407. Cultures, norms and practices are not ‘simple’ concepts
as such, but we will get back to this shortly. Next, the political arena is defined as ‘any forum where
political matters are contested’. In our sequential developmental model, this aspect must precipitate
the state, as political forums of contestations must have precipitated the creation of a state entity that
functions as the ‘supreme arbiter’ in political decision-making408 which would eventually
institutionalize a fragmented and decentral political arena. The state, then, is the ‘final’ concept of
our pyramid model. The state necessitates all the other aspects. This also means, by implication, that
all the ‘lower’ steps of the model are parts of the state but we must recall that the model does not
work in a ‘one-way’ fashion. Rather, the levels of generality are interrelated and can have influence
in both directions (both ‘up’ and ‘down’ the pyramid). Albeit, force is likely to determine the
possibility for any ‘movement’ up or down the levels of generality and although force is never predetermined, it is more likely to move ‘down’ than it is to move ‘up’. For this to make sense, force
must, in turn, be conceptualized more broadly than in ‘old’ Marxian terms of coercion. Extending the
notion to Foucauldian definitions of power, broadens the concept significantly and, it is my hope,
alleviates some of the negative connotations of the Marxian definition of force as coercion per se.
Furthermore, Smelser’s notion of structural conduciveness helps us explain this working better as
well, providing a terminology that works well to point out the way in which structure often works in
social matters. Structural conduciveness here can then be understood, for instance, in terms of social
inheritance, religious influences, and so on.
Cultural structures, norms, practices, for example, are perpetuated as ‘conducive structures’ not
exactly ‘forcing’ individuals to do specific tings but rather ‘compelling’ them to perpetuate certain
ideas, practices, etc. This is the reason culture is likewise ‘higher’ in the pyramid than individuals and
since the political arena is an extension of culture, norms and practices, that the political arena is
above culture, and again the state as an extension of the political arena is at the top with the highest
degree of ‘conduciveness’ to assert. Not least because the state commands its institutions to further
enforce ‘its’ will (such as the police, military, law, schools, finances, etc.). However, although
influence is more likely to move from the top down, this is far from the only way in which changes
occur. Often changes occur from the ‘bottom up’ as well. In many cases changes in the lower layers
The complexity increases with the levels of imbrications (Taylor & Van Every 2012) that the concepts entails and
the amount of level of operations that the concept includes. For instance the ‘state’ is an extremely complex concept
(though it is not always considered so), but thinking of the state in relation to its various levels of operations as well as
the prolific levels of imbrications makes the state and extremely complex concept. In this view, the state is understood
in more contemporary constructivist terms, not along the classical IR lines.
Note that the model, however, does not view the political arena as external, nor internal to the state.
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
moves ‘up the latter’ and compels the state, ultimately, to further the implementation of a certain idea
or ideology, which will in turn enhance the influence of the idea or ideology. This is the reason why
the state is often times the ‘target’ of social movements, since state-implementation provides both
legitimacy and enforcement through various other mechanisms and endows the movements ideas and
ideologies with the strongest ‘conduciveness’ possible409.
Note; that to provide an adequate explanation of the development and movement of a certain idea or
ideology, however, requires more than the simple ‘model-explanation’ given here, which is only
provided to give some idea of the structural workings and theoretical frame of the research.
Furthermore, each instance of such a process is particular, and thus attempting to explain any such
with a mere superficial structural analysis like the above should be avoided.
Organizations, in this respect, should be understood as emergent entities. They arise from the lowest
strata and transgress upwards depending on its kind, influence and area of operations. Some
organizations barely touch on the norms, practices and cultural influences of the society in which they
are situated. However, most organization will draw on these as fundamental aspects of their
functioning. Organizations may permeate through the higher levels of the pyramid if they desire to
do so and if they are able to do so. This varies, of course form organization to organization. Like
organizations, the state and the political arena are likewise seen as emergent entities that arise from
the interaction of the ‘lower’ elements of the model.
Appendix 11: State violence and resistance
Note: This was originally part of the analysis under conducive structures, but had to be moved here
to preserve space in the assignment. The line of argumentation was too extensive, and I found it
best to maintain the conclusion in the assignment but not the underlying analysis and historical
contextual reiteration.
Eisinger (1973) found that social movements are bound to take place in certain conditions of political
repression410 (‘Social control’ in our terms). While no political repression typically prevents social
movements from uprising, strong repression will prevent social movements from occurring as well
by keeping the populations suppressed sufficiently by force or other means of repression that raises
This is not always the case because in some instances religious or other factions provide the strongest conduciveness.
But broadly speaking, official state acceptation and implementation is the ultimate legitimacy of any idea or ideology.
Defined as “any action by another group that raises the contenders’ cost of collective action” (Tilly 1978: 100)
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
contenders’ cost of collective action and thus dissuades action. Social movements appear when there
is some degree of political repression: where access to political participation is limited but social
control by force is not strong enough to repress the population from mobilizing. . In our case,
Guatemala, social mobilization is not a new phenomenon, only the scale of the 2015 demonstrations
were unprecedented as well as the result (the renunciations of Molina and Baldetti). We must ask,
then, how political repression has developed in conjunction with social movements in the country and
how this has influenced both the scope of the movements and their characteristics.
Political repression has been an omnipresent theme of GT throughout most of the country’s history.
Since the liberation from Spain in 1821, the country has been ruled by a long succession of ruthless
dictators until 1945 where the country had its first ‘democratic spring’ when the first democratically
elected president, Juan José Arévalo, was instated. Following the long succession of military
dictatorial rule, Arévalo was elected after a popular uprising against the long-standing dictator Jorge
Ubico (1931-1944). In the 10 year period of ‘democratic spring’ under Arévalo and his successor,
Jacobo Árbenz, political repression of the public was lessened and progressive programs and plans
were adapted to alleviate the suffering of the country’s population. Throughout the US-backed
military dictatorships, the wealth and resources of the country have been directed towards a small
elite sector and international corporations, businessmen and banks, whereas the country’s population
remained, for the most part, poor. Especially the indigenous population of the country (today still
estimated at 44% or more of the total population), suffered under the military dictators who favored
discriminatory (if not outright racist) policies discriminating against the original and populations of
the country. In 1954, however, the democratic uprisings and social improvements were abruptly
ended in a US-supported411 412 military coup in 1954 that would soon plunge the country into a 36year civil war. During the internal conflict, the rebel armies (called ‘Guerillas’), took up arms to
combat the new military dictatorships that took power in the country. The conflict lasted from 1960
until 1996 with, perhaps, the most noted years being between 1980 and 1983. In 1982 General Efraín
Rios Montt came to power in a new military coup (a persistent theme in GT history) and led the most
devastating military fights against the Guerillas in Petén (the Northern parts of GT). He adopted the
US ‘scorched earth’ strategy (learned from Vietnam (Chomsky: year 501: page)) in the military
combats against the Guerillas. Indiscriminately the militaries campaigns killed or ‘disappeared’
upwards of 200.000 Guatemalans during the 36 year conflict , but it is difficult to say of how many
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
Rios Montt was responsible but his military rule in from 1982 to 1983 has been the most general topic
of the conflict413. In 1996 a peace treaty was finally signed under President Alvaro Árzú who became
the first president of GT after the end of civil conflict.
We review this history for several reasons. First, we consider that the country was ruled by a military,
dictatorial ‘strong-men’ but that this did not, in fact, end civil resistance (and that this does not seem
to have been the case elsewhere either). But it did change the nature of civil resistance towards a
violent uprising (in the forms of the guerillas) who fought against the military strong-men in outbursts
of violent conflict for decades after the fall of the democratic, publicly elected governments of 19451954. As long the public was kept suppressed by force, they answered by force until the peace accords
of 1996 formally recognized (some) of the claims made by the guerillas (primarily formed by
indigenous, Mayas, peasants, and other rural populations). That forceful repression does not
necessarily ‘weed out’ movements, then, is an important notion and addition to Eisinger’s thesis.
Rather, this demonstrates that indeed structural conduciveness plays an important role in shaping the
character of civil resistance, here demonstrably towards a violent response to violence, supporting
findings by other researcher as well (Lipset 1983; Barkan 1984; Kimeldorf 1988; Marks 1989;
Brockett 1995).
Appendix 12: some additional notions on PPT and RM theory in relation to the GT
In the following, we will continue to ponder how political processes helped shape the movement, its
tactics and strategies, mobilization, and success. Some notions return to tpoics already discussed in
the report, but aims to give closer look into some details of these topics. Our first task in this regard
is to consider to what extent the mobilization was successful at all. Arguably, the movement did
achieve its originally stated goals: the renunciations of Molina (1) and Baldetti (2) and avoiding a
reelection of Manuel Baldizon (3). If we consider these the primary goals of the movement, then we
can say that the movement was successful and achieved its essential task414. In the first instance, this
is also the case. What we must not fail to recognize is that many other concerns were voiced, to some
degree or other, as part of the goals of the movement, officially or non-officially as well, though few
of these were achieved. These include institutional reform to the political and electoral system in
He is currently on trial for genocide, a process that has been underway for many years and which has been a highly
controversal legal case in GT judicial history and in the struggle for justice.
Goals stated by Garbiel Wer.
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Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
order to avoid future instances of corruption by preventing institutionalized spread and
‘contamination’ effects, calls for transparency of government operations, greater democratic
influence, and public awareness, observation of government action, and calls for ending impunity in
general415. Various other calls were also pointing attention towards areas in need of attention (and the
political failure to address the issues), of education, health care, and social security in particular.
Lastly, the rural population also called for protection and recognition of their areas and communities
which has been a recurrent issue social and environmental protection for decades after the fall of the
first democratic government in 1954 (Prior to 1944, the indigenous popular was, where necessary,
completely subjugated by force). From this observation we must also consider that while the primary
goal of the movement was achieved, the movement was, as we have discussed previously, constituted
from various groups with varying interests. Many of the constituencies brought with them other topics
and issues that they hoped to further through the larger movement.
This leads us back to an RM aspect of the social movement: its organizational composition. While
organization is often argued as an important aspect of social movements, it does not appear that the
social movement in our case possessed a large degree of organization. The foundation of the
movement was based on a Facebook ‘post’ or ‘event’, with informal invites to a demonstration
aiming, originally, for a goal of maybe a few hundred participants416. The organization, however, has
seen an increasing degree of formalization and division of labor internally. While the idea and
motivation for the group was always relatively clear, it seems that the group has developed more
concretely and into a greater degree of formality subsequently (though Justicia Ya still does not have
an official web page). Gabriel Wer states that the organization now has developed working groups
and that it has three distinct areas of work. 1) Informing citizens by using social media and meetings
to inform the public on general topics. 2) Educating citizens by delivering information in an easily
understandable way (for instance through simple info-graphics) and on current themes such as water
scarcity. 3) Political impact, by mobilizing the people against the state the goal is to create political
impact for causes that are important to the population (for instance water scarcity, corruption, etc.).
Additionally, Justicia Ya also aims to be a base for fostering the politicians and businesspersons of
‘tomorrow’, to instill those with more democratic ideologies and, larger social consciousness. In the
One of the most iconic examples of this was Oswaldo Ochoa, a rural elder known as ’El caminante’, who walked
and biked for more than 100 miles to protest in the city. He avidly called for a transformation of the GT society and
argued that electoral and political reform was insufficient to solve the profound issues of the society.
Thesis | 183
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
brief interview, Gabriel Wer gives some insight into the organization of Justicia Ya, but much remains
somewhat ‘hidden’ as the work of the organization is not publicly displayed clearly. Neither was it
publicly known that Gabriel Wer and his co-organizers in Renuncia Ya were the people behind the
movement. Wer participated in the demonstrations as any ordinary citizen and only the family and
people close to him and the four other members knew who was behind the movement. We know that
five to eight people started the group (see timeline, appendix ), but we do not know exactly how many
are involved now, and we do not know who they are, except for Wer. What we do know for sure is
that the connection with demonstrators remained informal in every way. Demonstrators were not part
of the organizations on a membership base, they did not pay membership fees or other contributions
to the work of Renuncia Ya o Justicia Ya, and there was no ‘professional leadership’ or ‘know how’
base417. As far as we know, neither was there any political representation nor funding from ‘middle
or upper class’ sectors of society. The movement was funded solely on a common public sentiment
and shared interest, mobilized through relatively simple means using online communication and
networks. In RM terms, this undercuts the idea that social movements are dependent on formal
representation in order to achieve political aims, but supports both Staggenborg’s characteristics of
the informal movements (Staggenborg 1988) as well as the argument of Piven & Cloward (1973) that
informal organization eases mobilization. Jenkins (1983) observes that centralized social movements
relying on formal organization are more effective at mobilizing resources than their informal
counterparts. While we cannot confirm this notion, what we may say is that in terms of moneyresources, the movement of GT did not mobilize money (in direct donations) for their operations (as
far as the empirical data reveals) which would indicate that in terms of money-resources the
assumption is correct. However, in terms of other resources, this may not necessarily be true (as well
as in terms of ‘in-direct’ money resources). We have seen that business closed down in support of the
movement leaving their workers free to participate and demonstrate (in-direct support) and the
support garnered in ‘mini-groups’ likewise may not be direct contributions to a leadership group
handling the interest of the movement, but nevertheless can be seen as ‘campaign’ support in terms
of various resources (such as banners, flags, ‘sculptures’, megaphones, speakers, etc.) which was
‘lend’ to the movement campaigns when individuals and groups brought them to the demonstrations.
In other words, in terms of direct money-support, the informal movement did not (as far as we can
tell) receive or mobilize any resources; however, we should not be too quick to assert that no resources
At least in the sense that the organizers were not formerly acquainted with social movement organization and
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
were mobilized as we may simply be focusing too narrowly by defining resources contributions solely
in terms of money418.
All of the espoused goals of the social movement were reached when Manuel Baldizon did not reach
presidency in the subsequent elections of 2015. On these terms, we should evaluate the movement as
successful in achieving its announced goals. Accepting these terms, however, does confront us with
some other questions, namely what to make of the subsidiary goals posited by organizations ‘chiming
in’ on the movement originally established by Renuncia Ya, and what to make of the conflation of
these demonstrations. Wer saw the convocation with other organizations, which essentially had the
same goals, as a mutual strengthening and enforcement. He states that smaller conflicts did occur and
that other organization complained that Renuncia Ya ‘tried [or wanted] to monopolized all the
demonstration’. He states, however, that this was never the goal and that mutual support between
Renuncia Ya and other organizations with the same goals was desirable for both parties, rather than
enmity between the groups. This also supports our earlier notions on the strategic levels of
amalgamation between societal groups, even of groups normally in opposition.
What we should make of this, perhaps, belongs in the category of PPT, as the broad alliances
definitely proved a force between the Renuncia Ya group and other organizations seeking the same
goals though also holding other distinct goals. The result of this is visible in many of the
demonstration’s banners where Renunciation is, perhaps, the most recurrent theme; though other
themes could also commonly be observed on the banners of the demonstrators. The conflation of
groups, however, does create some analytical difficulties, as it becomes somewhat more difficult to
draw demarcations between different organizations and their influences. While we know for sure that
Renuncia Ya had a remarkable impact on its own, we do not know to what extent other organizations
have influenced the ‘spread of the word’ and have helped sustain the movement throughout the
movement’s lifetime. We may deduct, however, that no organizations ‘lost’ on the convocation of
the groups as long as the demonstrations had a shared aim in the struggles. Whether one group, the
other, or both essentially benefitted from the broad constituency of alliances towards a common goal,
the end result is an aggregate gain. In terms of political opportunities, what is the common opportunity
denominator, then, is that a large array of groups at a single point in time happened to have a unifying
And we should note that the RM approach has rarely focused on money-resources exclusively as the definition of
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Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
goal through which a broad alliance was possible without violating other group interests. For
instance, indigenous groups were already in favor of a renunciation and conviction of Molina because
of his military ties and a demonstration in favor of his renunciation did not violate other goals of the
rural population (political recognition, influence, and justice for prior time’s violations against rural
societies, etc.). therefore, this group could be ‘integrated’ into the broad movement. Middle classes
were largely interested in ending corruption and improving the political institutions to prevent further
cases and as Molina and Baldetti were seen as the frontrunners of political corruption, the movement
orientation was not conflicting with their views either.
Hence, as regards political opportunity structures, this may be the vital component of the movement,
which was based almost exclusively on this topic. This becomes even more evident when we take
into consideration the informality of the movement organization in itself (considering primarily the
part of the movement formed by Renuncia Ya). Hence, for social movement strategizing
opportunities, interest conflation into mobilization may be a vital component for movement outcome.
Identifying such goals, then, may potentially be of as much importance as identifying ambitions and
goals within the individual movement organization. Linking one movement’s goals with others,
perhaps, is one of the most important strategic components of social movement ‘management’ in
terms of success factors (assuming that levels of mobilization of both organizations and individuals
is a crucial factor in achieving asserted goals). For RM theory, this might also have been a vital
component for mobilizing resources through auxiliary organizational support (although the empirical
data available does not tell us much about how many resources were actually mobilized). Provided
that organization a (for instance Renuncia Ya) has no resources itself, an auxiliary coalition with
organizations b, c, and d, pursuing the same asserted goal(s) may infuse the movement with much
needed reserves. Our case is not entirely without such examples, as know-how and political influence
were invested in the organization even from elite sectors (that we know about) when the CACIF
joined in the movement calls, calling for protection of demonstrators, giving notions of official
demonstration, and closing down stores to let employees go to demonstrations419. Thus, in terms of
resource mobilization, broad coalitions by forming alliances to reach mutual goals that are nonexclusive may likewise be a strategy for maximizing the movement’s potential and likelihood of
success (still assuming that movement size and available resource are determinants of success). While
this may not be ‘new’ in the sense that the idea of alliances strengthens organization, what we may
Thesis | 186
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
bring to the table is some further insight into how and why movements are strengthened by such
coalition, and also what can be achieved from coalitions. It simultaneously demonstrates to us the
fragility inherent in convocations because the coalition may have subsidiary conflicting goals and
that those can be exploited by opposing forces to create discord. We can also see from the case,
however, that if such discord between other asserted goals of the compositional organizations are
suppressed (in one way or another) that the coalition may achieve prominent goals.
Returning to another important element of the movement goals, a reconstitution of the political
institutions (especially in regards to elections and in various matters concerning congress) was not
reached to the same extent. Although progress has been achieved in the field, corruption is a deepseated issue and it will take time to tell if the issue can be resolved to a satisfactory degree, and how
much the social movement will be able to move the current situation. What we can say, however, is
that the movement has created a newfound orientation towards the power of the people and the
public’s influence and say in the struggle against political corruption. As we discussed above, the
movement has marked, for many, the end of the ‘culture of silence’ that long implicitly subdued
Guatemalans against protesting political corruption in the country (keeping the necessity for the use
of force lower). The demonstrations marked a revocation of this subjugation, which is a remarkable
step on the road towards ending corruption. It goes without saying that political apathy will not bring
justice to the already seriously impaired political institutions.
But with the invigoration and
encouragement of the people to engage, and the overcoming of decades of fear of violence, the tables
may finally have turned on the corrupt forces of GT politics. This remarks as well a successful change
in values (mind our prior conclusions) which was perhaps an implicit goal of the Renuncia Ya
movement, in the sense that this was never asserted officially, but that it is recognizable in various
discourses surrounding the movement. For instance that of Lucia Mendizábal, who started the
movement in frustration of political apathy, and stated that this time ‘we will not be passive’. Other
examples include the expressions of the protesters during the demonstrations, proclaiming that ‘nunca
más’, ‘basta ya’420, ‘no más corrupción’, and similar slogans, chants, banners, and rallying cries. The
changes of values (among the public) may be the essential aspect in overcoming corruption in the
political system421 and pave the way for the future development of the country. Some initial steps
have already been made422, though there is still a long way to go to secure this goal. If we consider
To the extent that it can be overcome.
For instance reforms to the law of congress to prevent transfuguismo, (14-2016)
Thesis | 187
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
the movement in terms of a value-orientation (though this was not officially expressed) we may
readily deduct that this is a fundamental aspect in reaching its asserted goals, and that the
mobilizations of hundreds of thousands attest to the success of restoring political participation and
engagement in the population.
In terms of political opportunities, three other important aspects must also be considered: the
influence of the CICIG in general, the importance of the La Línea case in particular, and the
significance of the general attorney, Thelma Aldana, who has been widely regarded as a force for
positive change in the interest of the Guatemalan people. The former, the influence of the CICIG, is
not new. The commission was established on December 12th, 2006, in other words, it had existed for
a long time. While the organization was reckoned to have improved its work under the leadership of
Ivan Velásquez (who assumed the leadership role in September 2013), it is important to reckon that
the commission was in effect from its initiation in 2006. The change in gears after Velásquez took
the leadership role in 2013 can be demonstrated through an evaluation of the cases revealed by the
CICIG. From 2006 to 2013, (both included) seven major cases were revealed in total. In 2014 and
2015, 6 major cases were revealed in total, one short of the eight prior years combined. President
Molina tried to end the term of the CICIG in the beginning of his presidency, arguing that ‘it was
time for Guatemala to start handing its own problems’423 (alluding to the fact that CICIG is a UN
entity, and thus can be presented as an infringement on sovereignty, although the organization possess
no independent power). He also invoked the notion that the CICIG was ‘inefficient’ and other
arguments in order to end their mandate- claims that the organization would soon disprove decisively.
The increasing success of the CICIG in unraveling corruption can be conceptualized as a political
opportunity for the movement, while in general the institutional provision and establishment can be
conceptualized as an objective opportunity (in accordance with our definitions from the theoretical
section424), in which the opportunity was primarily ‘seized’ or ‘appropriated’ under Ivan Velásquez.
and to the electoral law to prevent other issues of governmental practices:
and likewise in cases of corruption, the IGSS-PISA case verdicts on May 27th, 2016 were good news when judge Silvia
de León send everyone involved to preventive prison (including the powerful elites involved)
Opportunity viewed as an opening, indeed a possibility but no certainty (which tends towards the tautological
critique so often raised against PPT). The CICIG was all along provided a political opportunity structure, but it was only
used to a limited degree until 2015. In this sense, structure may provide opportunity, but opportunity can only be
effectuated through agency.
Thesis | 188
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
In this sense, the organizational facilitation provided by the legal installment of an independent
commission against impunity and corruption should be seen as an opportunity which must be
‘effectuated’, necessarily, through agency. Here, as well, we should not omit the work of countless
investigators and attorneys inside of the organization, worker whom are, however, seldom mentioned
and whose work is usually accredited to the organization as a whole.
In a similar sense, the general attorney, leader of the MP, Thelma Aldana, has been viewed as an
important factor in the success of the movements and reformations of the state. She, like her
predecessor Claudia Paz y Paz, is viewed as ardent proponents of justice in a country that has faced
severe issues within the justice system. This is perhaps best illustrated with the case of Rios Montt
who was sentenced for his leading role in genocide in GT in 1982-1983, but after he was convicted
the CC overturned the ruling on a technicality which let him go free (this was while Paz y Paz was
general attorney). Regardless, both general attorneys have been struggling to bring justice to an
impaired judicial system in GT and both with relative success. Although impunity is still high in the
country, the work of both general attorneys have been reckoned as a prominent factor in the struggle
against corruption and organized crime425. Like in the case of the CICIG, the MP is not a new
institution, but it has provided an opportunity structure, which likewise requires agency for its
appropriation. In other words, the opportunity has been there, but it had not been utilized (at least in
the interest of the movement members) until the two general attorneys took office. On these terms, it
may not be too difficult to see why President Molina (and his allies) tried to oust Claudia Paz y Paz
from office. First her term was short-circuited on a technicality426 and later she was not even amongst
the 6 remaining candidates to be chosen for the subsequent term, although she had proven herself,
probably, the most suited for the position. The elections were widely seen as a mixture of corruption
and blackmail and were not attributed with much credibility427.
In this sense, the shadowy networks of corruption and crime realized when the opportunity was
appropriated (by Paz y Paz) and sought to dismantle it. While the opposing forces could only achieve
this to some extent (shortening the period by 7 months and removing Paz y Paz from reelection for
the post), it had been successful, if not for her successor, Aldana, to have taken up where Paz y Paz
left, and continuing her legacy. For the social movement, this has had at least some influence on the
Her predecessor, Arnulfo Sagastume had left office after a very short period, and the CC ruled that she as to finish
his term rather than sit for a full term of 4 years, which shortened her term approximately 7 months.
Thesis | 189
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
general belief in a justice system that could actually be made to work to some degree. While impunity
remains high and great issues are still present in the justice system, the hard work of Paz y Paz and
Aldana respectively, must have influenced the belief in a system that at least can work in the interest
of the public. The public support and engagement, in turn, has also been a lever for the scope of
operations of the MP, because the general interest has acted as a force against corrupt practices and
involvement. In other words, because of the massive attention from the public and news, the scope
for corrupt influence in the work of the general attorney has been narrowed. It did not eliminate it but
quite possibly it has provided legitimacy and pressure for the initiatives made by the general attorney.
Returning to the demonstrations, a justice system that actually works would be a necessity for the
demands made by the public. Without the work of the CICIG and the general attorney, Molina and
Baldetti may never have been convicted of their crimes and they might easily have been able to
continue in GT politics (much like Rios Montt was able to continue in GT politics until recently, even
after his military coup and after the release of the truth committee report). The belief in a working
system of justice should be considered as a conducive structure in shaping the social movement and
emphasizing the reliance on peaceful strategies. The work of Paz y Paz and her success in convicting
elite profiles in Guatemala has been key aspects, political opportunities we may say, for the social
movements. Prior to Paz y Paz’s term, similar belief in the ability of the justice system to effectuate
convictions on elite actors has likely been non-present (especially to the extent that Paz y Paz opened
up for428). It should be mentioned here as well that Paz y Paz’s term was ended while the
demonstrations in GT were on-going, around the time of the renunciation of Baldetti. While her
departure and the way it was effectuated was heavily criticized and a blow against the social
movement initially, her Thelma Aldana continued with a strong hand against corruption which has
been a reconstitution of hope on behalf of the people fighting against it.
In evaluating these turns of events, what Weber (1947) termed as ‘charismatic leadership’ may be a
recurring idea based on our observations of importance of leadership in key roles. What we can say
for sure is that sympathetic leadership in key roles can be seen as an appropriation of a political
opportunity in ‘one’s favor’. While the political opportunity is structural and objective, agency is
action-oriented and subjective. Leadership in one’s favor is necessarily against leadership in another’s
favor (here the traditional elite powers of GT). Whether the leadership needs to be ‘charismatic’ (in
Weber’s terms and definitions i.e. based on the charisma of the leader) is up for discussion. What is
Forbes named Paz y Paz her 21st most important woman in CA as well as one of the 6 candidates for ‘women that
change the world’ to give some illustration of her influence and recognition, even abroad.
Thesis | 190
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
necessary, however, appears to be sympathetic leadership in key roles. This definition considers three
elements: 1) leadership: actions must be effectuated strategically and efficiently, but leadership can
be based, in principle, on any type of leadership (charismatic, legal, or traditional leadership). In our
example, legal authority seems more prominent than charismatic, as the leaders in question rely little
on charisma but are necessarily reliant on legal status. Secondly, key roles are important as we have
seen from our case. Leadership in roles such as the general attorney and the CICIG are key roles,
understood in the sense that they provide institutionalized power (in one way or another) to the actors
holding the positions. Those powers, then, can be effectuated in the interests of whom the leaders are
‘sympathetic’ to. Key roles, hence, are defined as roles with decisive influence on the matters in
question429. Lastly sympathy, regards the leader’s inclination towards a group (or movement’s)
interests over another’s430. Our definition thus readily covers both Paz y Paz, Aldana and Velásque
roles in strategically important key roles (defined as the objective definitions of political
Political opportunities, however, must also be recognized in other instances not dependent on
sympathies of leadership in key roles. For instance, for Gabriel Wer and Justicia Ya, opportunity was
based more specifically in the combination of an existing general belief and alignment of interests,
deriving from structural strain and set within the frame of certain conducive structures. Smelser’s
framework, here, provides a good framework for understanding the situation that the movement was
based on, the opportunity that was seized for mobilization was based on an existing disposition, and
existing combination of determinants (in Smelser’s terms) that had already readied the people for
‘collective action’ [behavior]. The value added framework here provides a good theoretical approach
to understanding political opportunities for mobilization (using the distinction proposed by Meyer &
Minkoff 2004) though not necessarily for success (as the framework does not consider this aspect
To sum up, we have identified political opportunity structures in one shape in an objective form based
on structural characteristics. We have termed these ‘key positions’ and we have argued that these
positions are objective and identifiable whether they are appropriated or not in the interests of the
social movement. The appropriation part requires action and is necessarily subject-oriented but is also
In our case these are decisively legal and political institutional, but this is a case-specific point. In other words, key
positions are contextual. The observations here also support our general conceptual framework presented in 2.4.2
Some objections may be raised over leadership impartiality, which are true, but often the case is that prioritizing in
leadership roles are shaped by sympathy or similar forms of social relations (cultural, identity, etc.).
Thesis | 191
Daniel Rosengren Olsen
Culture, Communication, and Global Studies (CCG)
Aalborg University 2016 C
Master’s thesis
related to strategizing and tactics, because movements must often actively seek to appropriate these
opportunities to their advantage. We have identified actors who have held key positions and who,
because of their sympathies towards the social movement have appropriated the political opportunity
in favor of the movement. Alternatively, if leaders in these positions had favored the position of the
opposition, we would have had to look at matters from a different perspective and reached the same
conclusion in favor of the opposing party. We argued that key roles are context specific and that they
will change depending on the situation, and likewise the leadership occupying the roles. Lastly, we
argued that this is merely one aspect of political opportunities, particularly one specific parameter for
success (but incidentally also an aspect of the conducive structures of our case, though this is not a
necessity). Parameters for mobilization, we have argued, can on the other hand be very well
understood by applying Smelser’s value added framework for collective behavior (with our
reservations to the term ‘collective behavior’ and the areas of application of the framework).
Thesis | 192